July is national Juvenile Arthritis month and as mom to a daughter with juvenile arthritis, I would like to share some information about this autoimmune condition that affects an estimated 300,000 children and their families in the United States. Juvenile arthritis is an umbrella term used to describe the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions or pediatric rheumatic diseases that can develop in children and teens.The various types of juvenile arthritis share many common symptoms, like pain, joint swelling, redness and warmth, but each type of JA is distinct and has its own unique characteristics and how it affects the body.
From the Arthritis Foundation:
Common Types of Juvenile Arthritis
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA)
Considered the most common form of childhood arthritis, JIA includes six subtypes: oligoarthritis, polyarthritis, systemic, enthesitis-related, juvenile psoriatic arthritis or undifferentiated.
An inflammatory disease, juvenile dermatomyositis causes muscle weakness and a skin rash on the eyelids and knuckles.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease. The most common form is systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE. Lupus can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, blood and other parts of the body.
Scleroderma, which literally means “hard skin,” describes a group of conditions that can cause the skin to tighten and harden.
This disease causes blood vessel inflammation that can lead to heart complications.
Mixed connective tissue disease
This disease may include features of arthritis, lupus dermatomyositis and scleroderma, and is associated with very high levels of a particular antinuclear antibody called anti-RNP.
This chronic pain syndrome is an arthritis-related condition, which can cause stiffness and aching, along with fatigue, disrupted sleep and other symptoms. More common in girls, fibromyalgia is seldom diagnosed before puberty.
Caring for a child with arthritis can be a challenging task. One of the most difficult aspects of this is the watch and wait nature of the diagnosis process. Once a diagnosis is confirmed the roller coaster ride of the relapsing, remitting pattern of the disease is the ongoing challenge for the patient and caregiver. Like any caregiving role, this one requires self-care, breaks, as well as help and support from others.