Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA), as the very name suggest, is the arthritis that affects individuals who are less than 16 years of age (in legal terms, still a minor or a juvenile). Arthritis, per se, can be described as an inflammation of the joints, characterized by swelling, heat, and pain. When its onset starts in childhood only, it gets the name juvenile arthritis. It differs significantly from the arthritis that is commonly seen in adults (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis) and the other types of arthritis that can present as chronic conditions in childhood, like psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. In order to minimize the effects of JRA, it is very necessary to recognize its symptoms and characteristics in the early stages only and start the treatment soon. Otherwise, your child might get robbed of an active and productive lifestyle.
Causes Of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
The exact cause of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) is not known till date. However, studies have shown that it is an autoimmune disease. In other words, it means that in case of JRA, white blood cells of the body lose the ability to differentiate between its own healthy cells and harmful invaders, like bacteria and viruses. Rather than protecting the body against the invaders, the immune system starts releasing chemicals that can damage healthy tissues, in turn leading to inflammation and pain. 'Why this happens' is a question that has still not been answered.
Signs & Symptoms
- Amongst the most common symptoms of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) are joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, with the latter two being more severe in the morning. However, they might be subtle in nature and not much noticed by the child.
- With time, the pain, swelling, and stiffness might lead to impairment of the joint function, apart from reducing the range of motion.
- The child might experience limping, which is not associated with any other problem, such as an injury.
- The joints may grow in an irregular, uneven way, leading to deformities of the extremity.
- The eye inflammation, a part of the JRA, might be characterized by eye irritation, pain, and redness, apart from sensitivity to light and, in extreme cases, even loss of vision.
- The child might suffer from high fever, which spikes (become high) several times in a day. There will be no apparent cause of the fever.
- There might be a light rash as well, which will come and go without any logical reason behind it.
- Muscle aches throughout the body, similar to those experienced in case of flu, can trouble the child.
- Swollen lymph nodes, more noticeable in the in the neck, under the jaw, above the collarbone, in the armpits, or in the groin are, comprises another symptom of JRA.
- Weight loss, because of a loss of appetite, might be accompanied with diarrhea as well.
- The growth of the child will be much slower as compared to other kids in his age group. Growth may be unusually fast or slow in an affected joint as well.