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July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month. Approximately 300,000 children in the United States have been diagnosed with juvenile arthritis. While some children are only affected for a few months, chronic cases of juvenile arthritis may last a lifetime.
Although the exact cause of juvenile arthritis is unknown, it is believed to be caused by an autoimmune disorder. Symptoms of arthritis include stiffness, swelling, recurring fevers, swollen lymph nodes, limping, and pain in the joints. Most cases of juvenile arthritis are mild, but severe complications may arise, such as chronic pain and joint damage.
Proper treatment is necessary to combat juvenile arthritis. Treatment may include anti-inflammatory medications, such as Advil or Aleve. In more severe cases, stronger medications are prescribed, such as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, or DMARDs. Along with medicinal treatments, lifestyle changes are recommended as well. Eating well, physical therapy, and regular exercise are necessary treatments to combat juvenile arthritis.
Juvenile arthritis is diagnosed by a physical examination from your child’s healthcare provider. Your child’s physician may also order diagnostic tests, such as an x-ray or MRI, or a rheumatoid factor test. Another diagnostic tool is a C-reactive protein test, which measures for the amount of C-reactive protein, or CRP is present in the blood. CRP is produced by the liver in response to inflammation.
Untreated, juvenile arthritis may cause more severe complications, such as anemia, stunted growth, changes in vision, and pericarditis, or swelling around the heart. It is important to get proper treatment quickly to avoid these complications. Children with mild to moderate juvenile arthritis are usually able to make a full recovery with treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment are vital to your child’s chances of full remission.
Premier Health Associates has pediatricians on staff 7 days a week. If you feel your child may be suffering from juvenile arthritis, schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician.