Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month!

July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month. Juvenile and arthritis are not two words we typically see associated together. When we think of arthritis we immediately think of the elderly, however arthritis can affect children too. Nearly 300,000 children in the United States are affected with juvenile arthritis. Juvenile arthritis is actually an umbrella term for many different types of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases that affect children. Arthritis.org explains the different types of juvenile arthritis and I have listed them below.

  • Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis = This is considered the most common form of arthritis in children. It includes 6 different sub-types such as oligoarthritis, polyarthritis, systemic, enthesitis-related, juvenile psoriatic arthritis or undifferentiated. 
  • Juvenile Dermatomyositis = This is an inflammatory disease that causes muscle weakness and a skin rash on the eyelids and knuckles.
  • Juvenile Lupus = Lupus is an autoimmune disease and can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, and other areas of the body.
  • Juvenile Scleroderma = These are a group of conditions that cause the skin to harden and tighten.
  • Kawasaki Disease = This disease causes blood vessel inflammation and can lead to heart complications.
  • Fibromyalgia = Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome that cause stiffness and aching, fatigue, disrupted sleep, and other symptoms.

http://www.kidsgetarthritistoo.org has listed several common signs and symptoms of arthritis and how they are different from symptoms caused by other illnesses and injuries. Many early signs and symptoms could be mistaken for other childhood diseases or injuries; therefore it is important to get a proper examination from your pediatrician. Below are several of the most common signs and symptoms associated with JA.

  • Pain = A child with juvenile arthritis may complain of pain first thing in the morning or right after a nap, and the pain may lessen with movement. JA pain typically occurs in joints on both sides of the body and may develop slowly unlike pain caused by an injury or another illness.
  • Stiffness = JA related stiffness may be worse right after a child wakes up and typically improves with movement.
  • Swelling = Swelling and redness may be present around the joints, and may even cause the joints to feel hot or warm to touch. Unlike normal swelling, JA swelling can come and go at any time and persist for several days.
  • Fevers = A child with JA may have frequent fevers accompanied by malaise and fatigue, and may come on suddenly and then disappear after a short time.
  • Rashes = A child with JA can develop rashes. These rashes differ from a normal rash because they typically develop over the knuckles, across the cheeks, or the bridge of the nose. They may not be itchy or oozing and they may persist for days or weeks.
  • Weight Loss = If a child seems fatigued, lacks an appetite, and is losing rather than gaining weight it is a sign that the problem could be JA.
  • Eye Problems = Persistent eye redness, pain, or blurred vision may be a sign of something more serious such as JA.  

Both PT and OT play an important role in the treatment plan for a child with JA. Physical therapy is used to help children regain strength and range of motion that may have been lost during a flare up. Research has shown that each time a kid has an active flare up they lose some strength, but only regain back a portion of the lost strength when a flare up subsides. Occupational therapy tends to concentrate more on hand function during activities of daily living (i.e. dressing, eating, and bathing), as well as provide adaptations and recommend accommodations to make daily tasks easier and decrease stress on the joints.

Be sure to check out these links below for more information on juvenile arthritis, and if you are concerned your child may have juvenile arthritis contact your pediatrician and schedule an appointment.



-Matthew D’Antonio, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

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