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Juvenile arthritis

Jul 18, 2008
As the name implies, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is a type of arthritis that primarily affects the young. Children as young as six months can be diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. In the United States, approximately 75,000 young people have this debilitating condition.

Like rheumatoid arthritis in adults, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is essentially an autoimmune disease. This is a syndrome whereby the body produces antibodies that attack its own joint tissues. Currently, medical researchers have not determined that exact cause of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. However, there are several theories as to how juvenile rheumatoid arthritis can happen.

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis cannot be diagnosed by any single test. A series of tests may be required to diagnose this form of arthritis and only after persistent presence of symptoms for at least 6 weeks, to rule out other possible medical conditions. A pediatric rheumatologist is an expert who specializes in arthritis in children, and may be required to treat children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

There are three categories of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis: polyarticular, pauciaticular, and systematic juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. These three categories have different symptoms and require different appropriate treatment.

Polyarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis occurs when swelling is present in at least five joints throughout the body. Most of the affected joints are those described as weight bearing joints, which include joints in the hands, neck, hips, knees, and ankles. Weight bearing joints are those that receive the brunt of the pressure and weight that is endured by the body.

One particular type of Pauciarticular arthritis affects girls less than seven years of age, and in 33 percent of the cases inflames the eye. The other type affects boys eight years old and older, and affects the sacroiliac joints, ankles, hips, and knees, among others. They may suffer from redness and pain in the eyes, as well.

Systematic juvenile rheumatoid arthritis refers to the fact that the disease may sometimes affect the whole body. This happens when the immune system becomes weakened by the disease. Children afflicted with systematic juvenile rheumatoid arthritis may experience fevers, rashes, in addition to the feelings of joint stiffness and overall pain and discomfort. Other symptoms that are specific to the systematic form of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis include the enlargement of the lymph nodes and the spleen.
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