Up to 4 in 1,000 children in Australia have Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA).
JIA is a type of inflammatory arthritis with an unknown cause that develops in children 15 years and under. Children with JIA have the same symptoms as those that affect older people – joint pain, stiffness, inflammation and reduced mobility.
Having JIA can be quite traumatic for a child. Imagine not being able to go running, to not be able to chase birds in the park, or even participate in the school carnival? Arthritis is life-changing for the child and their families.
What are the main symptoms of JIA?
The common joint related symptoms for all types of JIA include:
- Redness and warmth around the joint area
Due to the ongoing underlying inflammation there is also a considerable risk that, with time, the joints will become permanently damaged. This leads to a loss of joint movement and makes normal activities more difficult.
How did my child get this disease?
The causes of arthritis in children are unknown. Research suggests that for some types of JIA, genetics may be involved. However, these conditions are not regarded as hereditary. So if you have one child with arthritis, it does not mean that your other children will also have arthritis. It also does not mean that your child’s children will develop JIA.
Another theory is that some form of infection may trigger the start of JIA. Dietary and emotional factors do not appear to play a role in the development of JIA. JIA cannot be spread from one child to another. It is not infectious.
What are the next steps after diagnosis?
At some point, your child will be asked to have a number of tests as part of the diagnosis or management of arthritis. There is nothing to be alarmed about, these are routine. Some of the most common tests may include:
- FBC – Full Blood Count: A blood test to check for anything abnormal that might be important in managing the illness
- RF – Rheumatoid Factor: An antibody detected by a blood test. This is an indicator of the kind of JIA your child has
- ANA – Anti-Nuclear Antibody: This test is used to do two things. It helps identify the type of arthritis your child has and it is an important indicator for your child’s risk of developing eye problems.
Going to hospital
Children with JIA may need to go into hospital from time to time. Your child’s rheumatologists usually suggests this when special care is needed; it is not likely to be due to an emergency.
Management and treatment options
There are many different treatments available for JIA. What works for one child may not work for another. Finding the right treatment for your child can involve a process of trial and error. While this can be frustrating for all involved, it is important that you stick with the process to ensure your child gets the best possible treatment for their particular type of arthritis.
This process may need to be repeated if your child experiences a progression of the illness, a flare-up or just because their body has become used to a certain medicine and it no longer works as well as it did.
Medicines play a major role in the management of JIA. Some are tablets taken by mouth, while others are given as an injection. In some cases this injection may be directly into the joint.
Most medicines will need to be prescribed by your child’s doctor. But some, such as simple pain relievers, may be purchased at a pharmacy or supermarket (‘over the counter’).
The medicines used to treat JIA aim to:
- Alter or slow the progression of the illness
- Control inflammation
- Relieve pain
- Reduce fever
- Reduce other symptoms of the disease
- Assist in the maintenance of your child’s ‘normal’ growth.
If you need further information about Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis,
please call us on free call 1800 011 041.