Any time a parent has received the unexpected diagnosis that their child has a rare disease or condition, one of the first questions they ask is: “What can we do to treat it?”
For many diseases and symptoms, the answer is a pleasant one, or at least a hopeful one. For the overarching syndrome known as Juvenile Arthritis (JA), there often is not an easy answer for doctors. There is no cure for Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA), but remission is possible. With July being National Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, we take a closer look at the umbrella of ailments that afflict nearly 300,000 children—a population as great as the city of St. Louis.
Early Intervention is a Key
Early intervention is important for the treatment of nearly every ailment known to man. If you are the parent, relative, teacher, or friend of a child exhibiting unexplained or chronic symptoms, setting up or suggesting a visit to the pediatrician is a good idea. Symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Chronic muscle pain
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle stiffness
- Hardened skin
- A rash on the eyelids or knuckles
- Unexplained spiking fevers
- Swollen joints
Some versions of juvenile arthritis can see remarkable improvements through a more thorough commitment by children and parents to exercise and nutrition. Stretching, physical activity, and game playing can all help the body reduce or overcome symptoms like muscle stiffness and aching. These activities can also enhance the mental and psychological states of a child battling conditions that are hard to explain. Proper nutrition can also push through some boundaries by giving children the complete spectrum of vitamins and minerals they need to promote bone health, muscle health, and increase the potential of their autoimmune systems.
Drug therapy in children diagnosed with JA has the immediate goal of reducing pain and inflammation. In the long term, medicine is used to stop the disease’s progression. Doctors tend to treat the sufferers of JA aggressively in an attempt to stop further damage to joints and muscles.
There are four main types of medicine a child might get a prescription for to fight JA:
- Corticosteroids: Strong anti-inflammatories that can quickly control that symptom in small doses. They can be given by injection or orally. Dangerous side effects for children necessitates a low dosage.
- Biologic Response Modifiers: These are often used to treat Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. They help correct bad responses in a child’s immune system that result in inflammation. Children taking these medications must avoid live vaccines such as measles and chicken pox.
- Disease-modifying Antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs): Powerful anti-inflammatory meds that limit bone and cartilage destruction as well as joint damage. They can take more than a month to show results but are one of the longest-used prescriptions to fight JA.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Medicines like ibuprofen are used to cut down on pain and inflammation. Although most people can use them for painkillers, they have no effect on some children.
For more information on juvenile arthritis, visit the Arthritis Foundation. If you believe your child might be suffering from JA, contact a pediatrician as soon as possible.
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