July is juvenile arthritis awareness month

July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, dedicated to spreading awareness of the 300,000 children who are diagnosed with or suffer from arthritis. 1 in every 250 kids are impacted by some form of arthritis. Arthritis, or inflammation of the joints, can make it hard for children to comfortably play, join sports, and just be an active kid.

There is no singular cause of juvenile arthritis, but some research suggests that juvenile idiopathic arthritis may arise from a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental triggers. Sadly there is no cure and juvenile arthritis remains a chronic condition. Remission is possible, though, with early diagnosis and treatment.

Types of juvenile arthritis

There are many different types of juvenile arthritis, but these are some of the most common:

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis, formerly known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, is the most common type of juvenile arthritis. This arthritis causes joint pain, stiffness and swelling, and can also cause growth problems, joint damage, and even eye inflammation.

Vasculitis

Vasculitis causes inflammation of the blood vessels. This inflammation can lead to heart problems. The most common types of vasculitis in adolescents are Kawasaki disease and Henoch-Scholein purpura (HCP).

Juvenile myositis

There are 2 types of juvenile myositis: juvenile polymyositis and juvenile dermatomyositis. Both are inflammatory diseases that cause muscle weakness, but juvenile dermatomyositis can also result in rashes on eyelids and knuckles.

Juvenile scleroderma

This is a group of conditions that make the skin tighten and harden.

How is juvenile arthritis different from adult arthritis 

Juvenile arthritis and adult arthritis share some similarities, namely the inflammation of joints, but does have distinctions. With proper treatment, 50% – 70% of children with juvenile arthritis experience remission.

Juvenile arthritis treatments and medications  

Treatment for juvenile arthritis is aimed to relieve inflammation and control pain to help improve overall quality of life. Treatment plans often include medication in combination with physical activity and healthy eating.

Arthritis medications

There are a variety of medications that can be prescribed to treat juvenile arthritis, but these are the most common drug types:

  • NSAIDs or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
    NSAIDs are commonly used to treat arthritis and help reduce pain and swelling. They work by blocking your body’s production of the cyclooxygenase (COX) enzyme, which helps with inflammation and stiffness. NSAIDs help treat symptoms but do not slow or reverse the disease.
  • Steroids
    Steroids are synthetic drugs that are close to cortisol, a hormone your body naturally creates. Steroids work by impacting your immune system, reducing the production of chemicals that cause inflammation and altering the way white blood cells work to reduce immune activity. Steroids are often used to treat inflammation that is not in the joints. However, steroids used in children can interfere with growth and should be used as little as possible, often until another medication starts to be effective.
  • DMARDs or Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs
    DMARDs are used when NSAIDs aren’t enough to manage the pain and swelling, and they can be taken with NSAIDs. Like steroids, DMARDs work by suppressing the immune system. DMARDs are the longest-used medication to slow the course of the disease.
  • Biologic response modifiers
    Biologic Response Modifiers, or biologics, are a newer way to slow arthritis. These drugs target steps or chemicals in the inflammatory process and can work a little faster than DMARDs. However, these medications have not been in use long enough to know all the implications of long-term safety.

Activity for arthritis treatment

Activity can help manage juvenile arthritis, releasing endorphins to fight pain and anxiety, and improving range of motion and overall strength. These activities can be range of motion exercises geared towards reducing stiffness and improving joint motion. Stretching can also reduce stiffness and help keep muscles and joints flexible. Strength and cardiovascular exercises work on improving muscle and cardiovascular fitness, which is important for maintaining a healthy weight and mental health.

The wrong exercises, or even the right exercises done with the wrong form, can do more harm than good. Be sure to discuss with your doctor before starting a fitness routine.

Healthy eating for arthritis

Diet can play a role in controlling inflammation. Incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into an already healthy diet can support a growing child with juvenile arthritis. Anti-inflammatory foods include:

  • Dark leafy greens like kale and spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Cherries & berries
  • Lentils
  • Onions
  • Whole grains
  • Fatty fish like salmon and tuna
  • Healthy fats like olive oil and avocadoes
  • Spices like turmeric and cinnamon

Like with any healthy diet, avoid too much sugar, charred foods, heavily processed foods, and foods high in saturated and trans fats.

Juvenile arthritis can be a difficult diagnosis, but with a solid care regimen, arthritis doesn’t have to define your child or your family. Visit Cure Arthritis to find ways to get involved in Juvenile Arthritis Awareness month.

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