Since the cause of rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is not entirely understood, the condition cannot be cured and prevented. Affecting nearly 300,000 people of 18 years or under in the United States, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is typically not deadly and can be treated with a variety of options.
Just as with adult rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is also more likely to develop in girls than boys, with 2-3 year-olds at an increased risk. How the condition affects an individual, in the long run, depends on early diagnosis, approach to treatment, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis type, and the joints that the condition targets.
Also referred to as juvenile idiopathic arthritis, the condition is thought to be entirely separate from rheumatoid arthritis that occurs in adults. Treating juvenile rheumatoid arthritis requires more aggressive options as the condition can affect growth and development in children.
Treating Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
The goal in treating the condition is to improve symptoms, prevent bone and joint damage, and as well as improve motion range and mobility.
Once your child’s primary physician determines that your child may have juvenile idiopathic arthritis, you will likely get a referral to a pediatric rheumatologist. Pediatric rheumatologists specialize in diagnosing and managing rheumatoid arthritis long-term in infants and kids.
In some cases, seeing other specialists may be needed if there is skeletal damage, inflammation in the eyes, or rashes. However, in most cases, children need physical therapy to improve mobility and muscle strength to prevent developmental issues.
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis Medications
Initially, over-the-counter NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can be used to lessen inflammation and relieve pain. As a next step, disease-modifying medications, also known as DMARDs, may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms and impede the progression of the disease.
In more advanced cases, steroids infections can also be used to target affected joints directly and relieve pain, which is often preferred when the disease affects one or two small joints.
Corticosteroids are also common just as they are in treating adult rheumatoid arthritis. These drugs are highly effective in alleviating pain and inflammation. However, corticosteroids come with some risks when used long-term, especially in children, such as contributing to the weakening of the immune system and growth problems.
Things to Consider
Looking after and caring for a child with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis can be taxing for the patient and their caregivers. The stress of an autoimmune disease such as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis can take its toll on both the child in question and the people caring for them. Having a healthy emotional and professional support system is essential.
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