This is the ankle that started it all for us. One of our daughters has had a limp for months and we’ve taken her to the doctor several times. We’ve determined nothing is broken or sprained. So we went to the hospital and had tests run last month. Numerous X-Rays showed nothing broken at all. But she limps and it isn’t getting better. So we are now moving on to more tests. Juvenile arthritis is one diagnosis specialists are looking at. This month we return to see if high doses of anti-inflammatory medicine have made a difference.
This is what I have learned while we wait.
Juvenile Arthritis – What it is. What it Does.
Juvenile arthritis is not actually one particular disease. Instead, it’s a term used to encompass several autoimmune and inflammatory conditions and pediatric rheumatic diseases which can occur in children aged 16 or younger. In a group I just joined on Facebook there are many parents with children as young as 2 who have been diagnosed. This is a diagnosis that doesn’t seem to care how young you are.
What is Juvenile Arthritis
Juvenile arthritis is a general term used to describe several different conditions which affect young children. While all of the different juvenile arthritis conditions involve pain and joint swelling, redness, and warmth, each type is unique and has its own symptoms and concerns for the patient. Although juvenile arthritis sounds like it would be a joint issue, some types of this disease can involve the eyes, skin, muscles, and even the GI tract.
Types of Juvenile Arthritis
Unfortunately, there are several types of this condition affecting children. Each type is unique, but all of them are painful conditions.
- Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis: JIA is the most common form of the disease, and it includes six subtypes. They are oligoarthritis, polyarthritis, systemic, enthesitis-related, juvenile psoriatic arthritis, and undifferentiated.
- Juvenile Dermatomyositis: An inflammatory type of juvenile arthritis, it causes muscle weakness and a skin rash on the eyelids and knuckles.
- Juvenile Lupus: The most common form of this autoimmune disease is systemic lupus erythematosus. It can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, blood, and several other areas of the body.
- Juvenile Scleroderma: Scleroderma means “hard skin” and it describes a group of conditions causing patients’ skin to tighten and harden.
- Kawasaki Disease: This form of juvenile arthritis causes blood vessel inflammation which can lead to heart complications.
- Mixed Connective Tissue Disease: This may include a variety of symptoms from different subtypes of juvenile arthritis. These can include the symptoms of arthritis, lupus dermatomyositits, and scleroderma. It’s associated with an extremely high concentration of an antinuclear antibody called anti-RNP.
- Fibromyalgia: This is a chronic pain condition which can cause stiffness and aching along with fatigue, disrupted sleep, and a variety of other symptoms. It’s most common in girls and rarely diagnosed before puberty.
While there has been no hard and fast cause found for juvenile arthritis, there is no evidence suggesting that toxins, foods, or allergies cause this disease. Some research has made a connection to a genetic predisposition for juvenile arthritis, suggesting that the right combination of genes passed down from the parents combined with other unknown factors my cause the onset of juvenile arthritis.
Each type of juvenile arthritis is unique and presents with its own specific signs and symptoms. While they all have their own symptoms, some of most commonly seen symptoms can be joint swelling, pain, inflammation, redness, and heat. These are only those symptoms that are common to the largest percentage of the different types of juvenile arthritis, each subtype has additional symptoms and signs.
The absolute most important step in treating juvenile arthritis is an accurate diagnosis. This is a long, detailed process which requires a variety of approaches to ensure proper diagnosis. Unlike many other diseases, you can’t just walk in and have a blood test. Diagnosing juvenile arthritis requires a thorough physical exam and investigation of the patient’s medical history. Specific tests for specific types of the disease will follow after a diagnosis of juvenile arthritis.
There is no cure for juvenile arthritis. It can be managed and even put into remission with early diagnosis and aggressive treatment, though. Treatment goals are to relieve inflammation, control pain, and improve the affected child’s quality of life. Treatment plans typically involve a combination of medicines, exercise, eye care, and healthy eating to promote a lessening of symptoms.
Juvenile Arthritis – Know the Signs
Juvenile arthritis is serious business. If your child is showing any combination of signs of joint pain, inflammation, redness, irritation, and lethargy, get them to the doctor. Early diagnosis is the first step to managing juvenile arthritis.
We don’t yet know if this is exactly what is causing my daughter’s limp. We have some string suspicions but there are more specialists scheduled to be seen. And in the meantime, one silver lining from the process has resulted. My daughter has never been able to take pills orally. She has always had difficultly with that and often received medication in liquid format. In the last month she has become a real trouper at taking the medicine prescribed.