Arthritis is usually associated with growing older, but it can affect children too.
Juvenile arthritis generally appears before age 16, reports the American College of Rheumatology.
There are several types of juvenile arthritis, but all have joint inflammation in common. Genetics may put some children at increased risk. Some types may be triggered by infections.
Juvenile arthritis often affects the knees, and joints of the hands and feet. Common symptoms may include:
- Persistently swollen joints.
- Joint pain.
- Stiff joints, especially in the morning or after napping.
- Limited movement because of pain.
- High fever.
- Light skin rash.
- Swollen lymph nodes.
A doctor can do an exam and, if needed, lab tests and x-rays to check for juvenile arthritis or other problems that might cause these symptoms.
When only a few joints are involved, children with juvenile arthritis may be treated with a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen or naproxen. Steroids injected directly into a particularly painful joint can reduce inflammation more quickly.
Disease-modifying drugs known as DMARDs (methotrexate is the most common), more recently developed medicines known as biologic response modifiers, and corticosteroids may be added when many joints are involved or if symptoms persist.
Exercise is also an essential part of the treatment plan for children with juvenile arthritis. Physical activity can help reduce symptoms, keep muscles and joints strong, and preserve range of motion.
A doctor also may recommend physical therapy to help increase joint motion and strength, and to reduce pain.