Title: A Quick Guide To Understanding Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
Author: David B. Silva
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A Quick Guide To Understanding Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
by David B. Silva


Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) is defined as any arthritis
that causes joint inflammation and stiffness for more than 6
weeks in a child of 16 years of age or less. Inflammation causes
redness, swelling, warmth, and soreness in the joints, although
many children with JRA do not complain of joint pain. Any joint
can be affected and inflammation may limit the mobility of
affected joints.

There are three types of JRA, determined by the number of joints
involved, the symptoms, and the presence or absence of certain
antibodies in the blood.

Pauciarticular is the most common form of JRA and refers to those
cases when four or fewer joints are affected. Girls under age 8
are most likely to develop this type of Juvenile Rheumatoid
Arthritis.

Polyarticular affects 30 percent of all children with JRA. In
polyarticular disease, five or more joints are affected.

The systemic form of JRA is characterized by joint swelling,
fever and a light pink rash, and may also affect internal organs
such as the heart, liver, spleen, and lymph nodes.

In trying to understand the causes of Juvenile Rheumatoid
Arthritis scientists have been studying the immune system. JRA
is an autoimmune disorder, which means the body mistakenly
identifies some of its own cells and tissues as foreign. The
immune system, which normally helps to fight off harmful, foreign
substances such as bacteria or viruses, begins to attack healthy
cells and tissues.

Why the immune system goes awry in children is still undetermined.
Scientists suspect it is a two-step process. First something in a
child's genetic makeup gives them a tendency to develop Juvenile
Rheumatoid Arthritis; and then an environmental factor, such as a
virus, triggers its development.

The primary goals of treatment for a child with JRA are to
preserve a high level of physical and social functioning and
maintain a good quality of life. To achieve these goals, doctors
recommend treatments to reduce swelling; maintain full movement
in the affected joints; relieve pain; and identify, treat, and
prevent complications. Most children with Juvenile Rheumatoid
Arthritis need medication and physical therapy to reach these
goals.

There are several things that family members can do to help the
child through the treatment process and with the emotional and
physical complications of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis.

First, they should treat the child as normally as possible.

In addition, they should encourage exercise and physical therapy
for the child. During symptom-free periods, many doctors suggest
playing team sports or doing other activities to help keep the
joints strong and flexible and to provide play time with other
children and encourage appropriate social development.

Parents should also work closely with the school to develop a
suitable lesson plan for the child and to educate teachers and
classmates about the disease and its effects.

Finally, it's important to make sure the child understands that
getting Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis is nobody's fault. Some
children believe that JRA is a punishment for something they've
done.

Parents, as well as the child, might also consider joining a
support group.

Here are some Internet sources that can provide additional
information on Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, its forms and its
treatments:

American Juvenile Arthritis Organization (AJAO)
The primary nonprofit organization devoted to childhood
rheumatic diseases.
http://www.arthritis.org/

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin
Diseases Information Clearinghouse
A public service sponsored by the NIAMS that provides health
information devoted to childhood rheumatic diseases.
http://www.niams.nih.gov/

About Arthritis Today
Information on the causes, symptoms, and treatments of arthritis.
http://www.aboutarthritistoday.com/juvenilerheumatoidarthritis/

Kids on the Block, Inc.
An educational program that uses puppets to show how JRA can
affect school, sports, friends, and family.
http://www.kotb.com/


Copyright  2005 David B. Silva

About David: David B. Silva is the webmaster for About Arthritis
Today (http://aboutarthritistoday.com), a website on the causes,
symptoms, and treatments of arthritis. It spans all the various
forms: rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis,
juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, with articles, newest research,
and links to other resources. Visit http://aboutarthritistoday.com.


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