Coping with Juvenile Arthritis

Little girl drinks orange juiceArthritis includes over 100 different conditions and diseases that affect the body’s bones, cartilage, joints, muscles and other connective tissues.  Though commonly attributed to the effects of aging or as a consequence of an injury, arthritic conditions are actually the result of inflammation or are an autoimmune condition.  Arthritis conditions and diseases usually affect the body’s ability to move, hampering and sometimes completely halting physical movement.

When arthritic conditions affect children 16 or younger, they are covered by the umbrella term juvenile arthritis or JA.  There are several different types of JA, some of which affect not only the joints and other connective tissues but may also affect the eyes, the skin and have gastrointestinal effects as well.  There are several different kinds of JA, the most common being juvenile idiopathic arthritis or JIA.

Main symptoms of juvenile arthritis

The primary symptoms of juvenile arthritis are similar to those of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, including the limitation of motion in the joints due to swelling and inflammation, resulting in pain and stiffness, and joint deformities caused by damage to the cartilage and bone of the joints, leading to impaired use of the joint.

Juvenile arthritis may also have symptoms such as joint contractual caused by a joint being held in a flexed position for a long period of time, as well as growth irregularities and stunting due to the bones and joints being damaged.

Managing juvenile arthritis

Juvenile arthritis can be managed in a variety of ways depending on what type of juvenile arthritis the patient has.  A pediatric rheumatologist will work with the child and their parents to treat the illness in the best way possible by reducing the swelling and inflammation; alleviating the pain; helping to prevent joint damage; and increasing their ability to function normally.  Generally, treatment will include medication, physical therapy, eye and dental care, and proper nutrition.

NSAIDS, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are the doctor’s first choice when treating the pain and inflammation of juvenile arthritis, and many will prescribe that their patients buy Celebrex or a similar NSAID medication.  Cortiosteroids, such as prednisone, and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, such as methotrexate, are also used together with the NSAIDs.

Coping with juvenile arthritis

Children do not have the same ability that an adult might to cope with the diagnosis of a chronic and possibly debilitating illness, so outburst of sadness and anger are to be expected.  The important thing is not to ignore these emotions, but to address them in a positive way.  It takes time to realize that the disease is part of who they are, but not the only thing, and a supportive environment is important to encourage that.

Parents will also experience sadness, anger and many other emotions when their child is diagnosed.  It may be tempting to scale back scheduled activities or keeping them home from school, but keeping things consistent is important.  It will benefit the child as well as the whole family, giving them a chance to maintain their identity and activities and giving them an outlet to relax or perhaps release frustration.

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