Reduce the magnitude of threat poised by Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis by knowing its negative impact to us

Clinical Manifestations of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

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This young girl has polyathritis. There is involvement of the ankles, knees, wrists and fingers and swelling of the right shoulder. Both temperomandibular joints are involved, as are her hips and cervical spine.
This young girl has polyathritis. There is involvement of the ankles, knees, wrists and fingers and swelling of the right shoulder. Both temperomandibular joints are involved, as are her hips and cervical spine. | Source
There is swelling of the knee due to an effusion in association with synovial proliferation. There is also increased growth of the right leg. This is the result of epiphyseal overgrowth secondary to the increased vascular supply to the area of inflam
There is swelling of the knee due to an effusion in association with synovial proliferation. There is also increased growth of the right leg. This is the result of epiphyseal overgrowth secondary to the increased vascular supply to the area of inflam | Source
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The palms become reddened (palmar erythema)  non-specific sign of JRA
The palms become reddened (palmar erythema) non-specific sign of JRA
The rash in this child was due to the use of naproxen, and occurred in sun exposed areas of the skin. It resolved gradually over several years after cessation of the naproxen.
The rash in this child was due to the use of naproxen, and occurred in sun exposed areas of the skin. It resolved gradually over several years after cessation of the naproxen. | Source
uvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is a common, rheumatic disease of children and a major cause of chronic disability. It is characterized by a synovitis of the peripheral joints manifesting in soft tissue swelling and effusion. In the Classification
uvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is a common, rheumatic disease of children and a major cause of chronic disability. It is characterized by a synovitis of the peripheral joints manifesting in soft tissue swelling and effusion. In the Classification | Source
A balance of rest and exercise is important in treating rheumatoid arthritis
A balance of rest and exercise is important in treating rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (often called RA) is a chronic (long-standing) disease that damages the joints of the body.
Rheumatoid arthritis (often called RA) is a chronic (long-standing) disease that damages the joints of the body.
Rheumatoid arthritis affects approximately 1.3 million people in the U.S., with women developing the condition three times more than men
Rheumatoid arthritis affects approximately 1.3 million people in the U.S., with women developing the condition three times more than men
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) causes joint inflammation and stiffness for more than six weeks in a child aged 16 or younger
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) causes joint inflammation and stiffness for more than six weeks in a child aged 16 or younger
An example showing the differences between a normal, healthy joint, a joint affected by osteoarthritis, and one affected by rheumatoid arthritis
An example showing the differences between a normal, healthy joint, a joint affected by osteoarthritis, and one affected by rheumatoid arthritis
ven though infectious agents such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi have long been suspected, the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown
ven though infectious agents such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi have long been suspected, the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown
The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis come and go, depending on the degree of tissue inflammation
The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis come and go, depending on the degree of tissue inflammation
Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms can include fatigue, lack of appetite, low-grade fever, muscle and joint aches, and stiffness
Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms can include fatigue, lack of appetite, low-grade fever, muscle and joint aches, and stiffness
In rheumatoid arthritis, multiple joints are usually inflamed in a symmetrical pattern (both sides of the body are affected)
In rheumatoid arthritis, multiple joints are usually inflamed in a symmetrical pattern (both sides of the body are affected)
Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease and its inflammation can affect organs and areas of the body other than the joints
Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease and its inflammation can affect organs and areas of the body other than the joints
A rheumatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the non-surgical treatment of rheumatic illnesses, especially arthritis.
A rheumatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the non-surgical treatment of rheumatic illnesses, especially arthritis.
The first step in the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is a meeting between the doctor and the patient
The first step in the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is a meeting between the doctor and the patient
A newer, more specific blood test for rheumatoid arthritis is the citrulline antibody test.
A newer, more specific blood test for rheumatoid arthritis is the citrulline antibody test.
Another blood test for RA called the sedimentation rate (sed rate), is a measure of how fast red blood cells fall to the bottom of a test tube
Another blood test for RA called the sedimentation rate (sed rate), is a measure of how fast red blood cells fall to the bottom of a test tube
Joint X-rays can also be helpful in monitoring the progression of rheumatoid disease and joint damage over time.
Joint X-rays can also be helpful in monitoring the progression of rheumatoid disease and joint damage over time.
In arthrocentesis, a sterile needle and syringe are used to drain joint fluid out of the joint for study in the laboratory
In arthrocentesis, a sterile needle and syringe are used to drain joint fluid out of the joint for study in the laboratory
There is no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis; however, early medical intervention has been shown to be important in improving outcomes
There is no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis; however, early medical intervention has been shown to be important in improving outcomes
Two classes of medications are used in treating rheumatoid arthritis: fast-acting "first-line drugs" and slow-acting "second-line drugs."
Two classes of medications are used in treating rheumatoid arthritis: fast-acting "first-line drugs" and slow-acting "second-line drugs."
Symptomatic pain relief can often be achieved with oral acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) or OTC topical preparations.
Symptomatic pain relief can often be achieved with oral acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) or OTC topical preparations.
The areas of the body, other than the joints, that are affected by rheumatoid inflammation are treated individually.
The areas of the body, other than the joints, that are affected by rheumatoid inflammation are treated individually.
Surgery may be an option to restore joint mobility, repair damaged joints, or in worst case scenarios, total artificial joint replacement.
Surgery may be an option to restore joint mobility, repair damaged joints, or in worst case scenarios, total artificial joint replacement.

Rheumatoid arthritis Exercises

A personal trainer may allow you to personalize your exercise regimen.
A personal trainer may allow you to personalize your exercise regimen.
Regular exercise boosts fitness and helps reverse joint stiffness with RA
Regular exercise boosts fitness and helps reverse joint stiffness with RA
Regular aerobic exercise reduces blood pressure and helps prevent bone loss
Regular aerobic exercise reduces blood pressure and helps prevent bone loss
Low-impact aerobics strengthen your bones and muscles
Low-impact aerobics strengthen your bones and muscles
Swimming is a great cardio exercise to build muscles and condition joints
Swimming is a great cardio exercise to build muscles and condition joints
Resistance exercises increase mobility and strength.
Resistance exercises increase mobility and strength.
If done properly, isometrics can increase muscle strength.
If done properly, isometrics can increase muscle strength.
The isometric chest press can be done anywhere and needs no equipment.
The isometric chest press can be done anywhere and needs no equipment.
This isometric exercise increases strength without adding pressure to joints.
This isometric exercise increases strength without adding pressure to joints.
Strengthening the thigh muscles helps support the knees.
Strengthening the thigh muscles helps support the knees.
Improved flexibility prevents abnormal forces on joints, decreases injury risk.
Improved flexibility prevents abnormal forces on joints, decreases injury risk.
Finger extensions help keep your hand and fingers flexible.
Finger extensions help keep your hand and fingers flexible.
Wrist flexion and extension can be done anytime throughout your day.
Wrist flexion and extension can be done anytime throughout your day.
Stretching the elbow improves range of motion and decreases pain.
Stretching the elbow improves range of motion and decreases pain.
Stretch hips daily to help prevent pain and stiffness and increase mobility.
Stretch hips daily to help prevent pain and stiffness and increase mobility.
Perform the Achilles stretch to keep feet flexible.
Perform the Achilles stretch to keep feet flexible.
Books and videos on tai chi are available online and at local bookstores.
Books and videos on tai chi are available online and at local bookstores.
Books and videos on tai chi are available online and at local bookstores.
Books and videos on tai chi are available online and at local bookstores.
Get more rest when your RA is active and more exercise when it is not active.
Get more rest when your RA is active and more exercise when it is not active.

References and sources

1. Abernethy M, Bass N, Sharpe N: Doppler echocardiography and the early diagnosis of carditis in acute rheumatic fever. Aust N Z J Med 1994 Oct; 24(5): 530-5.

2. Circulation: The natural history of rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease. Ten-year report of a cooperative clinical trial of ACTH, cortisone, and aspirin. Circulation 1965 Sep; 32(3): 457-76.

3. Cotran RS, Kumar V, Collins T: Rheumatic fever. In: Robbins Pathologic Basis of Disease. 6th ed. WB Saunders Co; 1999: 570-73.

4. Dajani A, Taubert K, Ferrieri P: Treatment of acute streptococcal pharyngitis and prevention of rheumatic fever: a statement for health professionals. Committee on Rheumatic Fever, Endocarditis, and Kawasaki Disease of the Council on Cardiovascular Disease in the Young, the American. Pediatrics 1995 Oct; 96(4 Pt 1): 758-64.

5. Dajani AS, Taubert KA, Wilson W: Prevention of bacterial endocarditis. Recommendations by the American Heart Association. Circulation 1997 Jul 1; 96(1): 358-66.

6. Guidelines for the diagnosis of rheumatic fever: Jones Criteria, 1992 update. Special Writing Group of the Committee on Rheumatic Fever, Endocarditis, and Kawasaki Disease of the Council on Cardiovascular Disease in the Young of the American Heart Ass. JAMA 1992 Oct 21; 268(15): 2069-73.

7. Massell BF, Fyler DC, Roy SB: The clinical picture of rheumatic fever. Diagnosis, immediate prognosis, course and therapeutic implications. Am J Cardiol 1958; 1: 436-39.

8. Narula J, Virmani R, Reddy KS: Rheumatic Fever. American Registry of Pathology. Washington DC; 1999.

9. Pickering LK: Rheumatic Fever. 2000 Red Book: Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases. 25th ed. American Academy of Pediatrics; Elk Grove Village, IL: 2000.

10. Swedo SE, Leonard HL, Garvey M, et al: A case of pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections. Am J Psychiatry 1998 Nov; 155(11): 1592-8.

11. Veasy LG, Wiedmeier SE, Orsmond GS, et al: Resurgence of acute rheumatic fever in the intermountain area of the United States. N Engl J Med 1987 Feb 19; 316(8): 421-7.

Contributors

The Head of Department and staff of Pediatric department, Ternopil State medical University, Ternopil- Ukraine. Special thanks to Dr Victoria Fudella (M.D)
The Head of Department and staff of Pediatric department, Ternopil State medical University, Ternopil- Ukraine. Special thanks to Dr Victoria Fudella (M.D) | Source
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JRA is the most common form of arthritis in children. It may be a mild condition that causes few problems over time, but it can be much more persistent and cause joint and tissue damage in other children. JRA can produce serious complications in more severe cases. Arthritis is best described by four major changes in the joints that may develop. The most common features of JRA are: joint inflammation, joint contracture (stiff, bent joint), joint damage and/or alteration or change in growth.

Other symptoms include joint stiffness following rest or decreased activity level (also referred to morning stiffness or gelling), and weakness in muscles and other soft tissues around involved joints. However, because JRA affects each child differently, your child may not experience all of these changes. Children also vary in the degree to which they are affected by any particular symptom.

The signs and symptoms of JRA vary from child to child, and even from day to day in the same child! This is an important fact for parents, caretakers and teachers (especially gym teachers) to keep in mind when working with children who have JRA.

Diagnostic criteria of JRA:

Clinical signs:

1.Arthritis more than 3 months (in Europe), more than 6 weeks (in USA).

2.Next joint arthritis in 3 months and more after the first joint affection

3.Symmetrical affection of small joints

4.Effusion in joint cavity (under the capsule)

5.Joint contracture.

6.Tendosynovitis or bursitis.

7.Muscular atrophy.

8.Morning stiffness of joints.

X-ray signs:

1.Osteoporosis.

2.Articular cavities narrowing

3.Bone growth disturbances

There is no single test to diagnose JRA. The diagnosis is made when there has been persistent arthritis in one or more joints for at least 6 weeks after other possible illnesses have been ruled out. Sometimes, a variety of tests may be necessary to come to a firm diagnosis. Once your child's physician suspects or makes this diagnosis, your child may be referred to a pediatric rheumatologist. This is a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of children with arthritis and arthritis-related conditions.

The type of arthritis is usually determined based on the symptoms your child has had during the first 6 months of the illness. The 3 major types of JRA are: pauciarticular which affects 4 or fewer joints; polyarticular JRA which affects 5 or more joints; and systemic onset JRA which affects at least one joint but causes inflammation of internal organs as well.

Types of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

Pauciarticular JRA

Pauciarticular means "few joints." This form of JRA affects 4 or fewer joints. About 50% of all children with JRA have this type. Usually, large joints (knees, ankles or elbows) are most often involved. Other joints such as wrists, spine and even small finger or toe joints can also be affected but less commonly. Pauciarticular JRA often affects a particular joint on one side of the body rather than both sides at the same time (both sides involved is called "symmetrical arthritis").

There are two different types of pauciarticular JRA: one type usually affects little girls under age 7 and is associated with the development of eye inflammation (chronic iridocyclitis or uveitis) in about 1/3 of these children. These children should be tested for antinuclear antibodies (ANA). This tells the rheumatologist and the ophthalmologist (eye doctor) whether your child has a higher risk of developing uveitis (when the ANA is positive the risk is higher). Unfortunately, this eye condition is silent so only proper monitoring by an eye doctor who is familiar with this complication of JRA may find the changes in the eyes.

The second type of pauciarticular JRA usually affects boys who are somewhat older, typically after age 8 and tends to involve the lower spine (sacroiliac joints), hips, knees, ankles and tendons. Sometimes, the spots at which tendons and ligaments attach to bones are also inflamed (enthesitis). These children may also develop eye problems, but this is usually acute uveitis (rather than chronic uveitis) and often causes redness and pain in the eyes. This type of JRA may be the first sign of another arthritis-related condition, such as one of the spondyloarthropathies. This group of diseases usually affects the spine, tendons, and eyes, and is associated with a genetic factor, HLA-B27 in some people.

Long-term problems due to pauciarticular JRA are seen in some of the children affected. Many children have no long-term consequences due to this illness. However, chronic damage can occur in the eyes and the eye problems may be much more persistent than any joint problems. On the other hand, some children develop chronic joint problems. This can include: decreased range of motion of a joint, shortening or lengthening of a limb or digit, damaged cartilage and/or enlargement of a joint. In some children, the arthritis spreads to other joints. These children are said to have "extended pauciarticular JRA" which is similar to polyarticular JRA. Speak to your doctor if you have questions or concerns about any of these issues.

Polyarticular JRA

Polyarticular means many joints; this form of arthritis affects five or more joints. Girls are affected by polyarticular JRA more frequently than boys. When polyarticular JRA affects teenagers, it often resembles RA.

Polyarticular arthritis usually affects the small joints of the fingers and hands; it can also affect weight-bearing joints (including the knees, hips and ankles) as well as the neck and jaw. Polyarticular JRA often affects the same joints on both sides of the body (symmetrical arthritis). Other possible symptoms might include: low grade fever, a positive blood test for rheumatoid factor (RF), and/or nodules (bumps on an elbow or other point of the body that receives a lot of pressure from chairs, shoes or other objects). Less often, inflammation of internal organs may occur. Anemia (low red blood cell count) is a common problem for these children.

Children with polyarticular JRA, especially the younger girls with a positive ANA, are at risk to develop chronic uveitis just like those with pauciarticular disease. Ophthalmologists should evaluate these children too.

Children with polyarticular JRA may develop damage to some of their joints. For example, slower growth may occur in the jaw due to arthritis in the TMJ (temporomandibular joint). This may cause jaw pain and discomfort with chewing. It may also affect dental care and eating habits. This may affect how well your child grows.

In the spine, neck stiffness and difficulty turning the head side to side may occur. Special x-rays can help your doctor determine if arthritis has developed in these areas.

Since polyarticular JRA affects many more joints than is seen with pauciarticular JRA, your doctor may need to use several different medications (often taken together) to treat your child successfully.

Systemic Onset JRA

A systemic illness is one that affects the entire person or body systems. This is the least common form of JRA. Boys and girls are equally likely to have systemic onset JRA. This type of JRA is associated with high fevers, a rash, arthritis and, in some children, inflammation of internal organs. For some children the systemic symptoms of the disease and the fever may go away completely after the first few months of the illness, although the joint-related symptoms of arthritis may remain for a longer period of time.

Symptoms of systemic onset JRA usually include: daily high spiking fevers (103 degrees or higher) that may last for weeks or even months; a rash of pale red or pink spots that appear on the child's chest, thighs and sometimes other parts of the body (the rash may accompany the fever and may come and go for many days in a row); joint pain and inflammation that may accompany the fever or begin weeks or months later. Joint problems can become a major long-term symptom. Other possible features of this form of arthritis include inflammation of the outer lining of the heart (pericarditis) or the lungs (pleuritis); anemia and high white blood cells and platelets (cells that help with clotting); and enlarged lymph nodes, liver or spleen. Blood work is usually checked frequently in the first few weeks and months of this illness to watch your child closely.

In about half the children with systemic JRA, the illness seems to disappear within 1 year of onset. Flare-ups, or a return of the illness, can happen without warning or after some viral infections (mononucleosis and chicken pox, for example). In most children with systemic JRA, medications must be used for months to years to control both parts of this illness - the systemic part (fever, rash, anemia, etc.) as well as the arthritis.

Long term problems due to systemic JRA are similar to polyarticular JRA. Uveitis, however, is uncommon, so the eyes only need to be checked only once a year in these children.

Diagnosis.

Physician may have to go through many steps to find out if a type of juvenile arthritis or a related condition is present. Other possible diagnoses are reviewed in detailed pamphlets available through the Arthritis Foundation. The main processes involved in making a diagnosis usually include:

· A complete health history to help determine the length of time symptoms have been present, to rule out other possible causes such as viral infections, and to find out if other family members may have had a form of arthritis that possibly could have been inherited (family history).

· A physical examination to look for joint inflammation, rashes, nodules, signs of internal organ inflammation and/or eye problems that may suggest the presence of juvenile arthritis.

· Laboratory tests to help rule out other diseases. These may include erythrocyte sedimentation (sed) rate (ESR), ANA, RF, HLA-B27 typing, hemoglobin and blood count testing and urinalysis (UA).

· X-rays or other specialized x-ray procedures of joints, bones and organs to check for infections, tumors or fractures.

· Tests of joint, blood and tissue fluids to check for infections or inflammation.

For example, an illness such as systemic lupus erythematosus may be similar to JRA in its symptoms (fever, rash arthritis) or fibromyalgia may seem similar, too (joint and muscle pain, fatigue). Further testing will help exclude these and other diagnoses.

Treatment of JRA.

Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment provides children with the best possible opportunity for a favorable outcome. Your child's treatment will be based on the kind of arthritis he/she has and on their specific symptoms.

The goals of any treatment program for juvenile arthritis are: control inflammation, relieve pain, prevent or control joint damage and maximize joint and body function.

Sick child's treatment program will usually include medication, exercise, eye care, dental care and healthy eating practices. Treatments such as surgery may be necessary for special long-term problems. Some physicians have also found that pain can be lessened by combining medical treatment with techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation, meditative breathing and guided imagery.

Because so many techniques are used to treat children with JRA, the ideal type of care is sometimes called team care or coordinated care. Your child's health-care team will include many different specialists who work together to offer your child a complete treatment program. These may include a pediatric rheumatologist, nurse clinician, physical or occupational therapist, dietitian, ophthalmologist, psychologist, nephrologist, neurologist, gastroenterologist, cardiologist, pulmonologist, dentist, social worker or orthopaedic surgeon.

Pediatric rheumatology centers in many major medical centers offer this care in one location. If you do not live near a pediatric rheumatology center, your child's physician will refer you to the specialists he/she needs.

Medications

The immediate goal of drug therapy is to reduce inflammation, relieve pain and swelling, and maximize function. Long-range goals are to alter the progress of the disease and the prevent damage to bone, cartilage and soft tissues such as muscles, tendons and joint capsules. It must be remembered that medication dosages in children must be carefully calculated based on their weight and body size. Medication doses should be adjusted regularly as the child grows to make sure the proper dosages are used. In addition, it is well known that children metabolize some medications differently than do adults. Therefore, drug dosages may be much higher than one would expect based just on the child's smaller body size. Side effects may be different in children, or occur rarely compared to adults taking the same medication.

The following medications may be used to treat children with arthritis and related conditions.

NSAIDs

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the first line of medication used in juvenile arthritis and are the mainstay of the initial therapy. NSAIDs must be taken for at least three to four weeks to tell whether they are helping control pain and inflammation. Laboratory tests may be done a few times a year to monitor medication side effects. These medications come in liquid or pill form and are taken from one to four times per day, depending on the drug prescribed. Some common NSAIDs on the market approved for children include: ibuprofen, naproxen, tolmentin, aspirin, choline magnesium trisalicylate and indomethacin.

Possible side effects of NSAIDs include: occasional stomach pain, nausea and vomiting; anemia; headache; and uncommonly, blood in the urine; fluid retention; thinning and scarring of the skin (especially with naproxen); difficulty concentrating; and rarely, stomach ulcer.

Aspirin

Aspirin is a rarely prescribed NSAID these days. If chosen by your doctor, it may be used to control joint pain and swelling and to reduce fever just like the other NSAIDs. It is prescribed in large amounts and is given three or four times a day. Young children should not suck or chew on the aspirin because this may damage the chewing surfaces of the teeth and irritate the gums. Instead, try crushing the dose and having the child swallow it in a small amount of a favorite food such as applesauce or yogurt.

Possible side effects of aspirin include stomach pains or stomach bleeding; toxic reactions can occur from too a high dose built up in your child's system (rapid or deep breathing, ringing in the ears, decrease in hearing, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, irritability, unusual behavior and black stools). A rare complication called Reye's syndrome can occur in children who have the chicken pox or the flu and are taking aspirin. Symptoms include frequent vomiting, very painful headaches, unusual behavior, extreme tiredness and confusion. The different NSAIDs should never be combined together without your doctor's instructions.

Slow Acting Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

These drugs do not relieve pain or inflammation right away; instead, they are given to change the progress of joint disease (such as joint erosions or cartilage and bone destruction) weeks to months after therapy is begun. Therefore, they are referred to as slow-acting anti-rheumatic drugs (SAARDs) or disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). These drugs are often used in combination with NSAIDs. Because they are more powerful medications, children will need to have more frequent laboratory tests for monitoring of possible side effects. Some of these medications are described below.

Hydroxychloroquine

Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) is a pill used to control joint pain and swelling. It may take 3 to 6 months to work. While not helpful in all cases, it may be useful when methotrexate or gold have not been completely effective and can be used alone or in combination with other drugs.

Side effects of hydroychloroquine include upset stomach, skin rash and a rare complication, eye damage. A child who takes this drug should have his/her eyes examined at least every six months by an ophthalmologist familiar with this medication.

Sulfasalazine

Sulfasalazine (Azulfadine) is given in pill form. This medication helps the joint pain, stiffness and swelling. It can sometimes have more side effects in children with systemic onset JRA, so should be used with caution in this type of JRA. It takes 6-12 weeks to work.

Side effects may include stomach upset, achiness, diarrhea, dizziness, headache, light sensitivity, itching, appetite loss, liver abnormalities, lowered blood count, nausea, vomiting or rash. Blood work is checked within a few weeks of starting this medication then every few months to check for these changes.

Gold Compounds

Gold compounds (Auranofin, Ridaura, Myochrysine and Solganol) are used to ease morning stiffness and control joint swelling and pain. The oral form is taken daily. Injections are usually given every week for five or six months, then one or twice a month for as long as necessary. These medications are only occasionally used in JRA any more. They take 3-6 months to work.

Side effects may include skin rash, mouth sores, kidney problems, a low blood count or anemia. Blood and urine tests are checked every 1 to 4 weeks while taking gold compounds.
Penicillamine

Penicillamine (DePen and Cuprimine) is given in pill form. This medication is rarely used for JRA but more often for scleroderma, an arthritis-related condition. It takes up to 6 months to work.

Side effects include diarrhea, skin rash, hives or itching, low blood counts, mouth sores, nausea or vomiting, stomach pain, loss of taste or appetite, swollen glands, unusual bleeding or bruising, or weakness.

Immune System Medications
Methotrexate

Methotrexate (Rbeumatrex) is given weekly either orally as a liquid or in pill form, or by injection. It is one of the most commonly prescribed SAARDs for children with JRA. It can help the arthritis as well as the systemic illness in many children. It can help control uveitis in more severe cases. It takes 4-8 weeks to work.

Few side effects have been reported at the low doses at which methotrexate is usually prescribed (typically 7.5 to 25 mg a week), but regular laboratory monitoring is still important. Blood tests are usually checked every month at first then every 6-8 weeks later on. This is also a cancer chemotherapy drug but the dosages used in children with JRA are much lower. Therefore, the side effects are less frequent.

Side effects may include nausea, mouth sores, moodiness, diarrhea, low white blood cell count, lung irritation, infections and liver irritation. Avoid all alcohol intake and smoking while on this medication.

Azathioprine

Azathioprine (Imuran) is given in pill form. This is an immune system suppressing medication. It is not commonly used to treat JRA. It is saved for children that have failed or cannot take methotrexate. It takes about 3 months to work.

Side effects can include cough, fever and chills, loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting, skin rash, unusual bleeding or bruising, unusual tiredness or weakness, or possibly, sterility.

Cyclophosphamide

Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) is given in pill form daily or intravenously in a single dose, usually monthly. This drug is rarely used for JRA but often given in children with systemic lupus erythematosus, an arthritis-related condition. It may take several months to work.

Side effects include blood in the urine or burning on urination, confusion or agitation, cough, dizziness, fever and chills, infertility, loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting, unusual bleeding or bruising, unusual tiredness or weakness, and an increased risk for cancer.

Cyclosporine

Cyclosporine (Sandimmune) is given in liquid or pill form. This drug helps the joint inflammation as well as the systemic symptoms of systemic onset JRA. It may take a 1-2 months to work. Blood levels are often checked to determine the best dosage for your child.

Side effects include bleeding, tender or enlarged gums; fluid retention; high blood pressure; increased hair growth; kidney problems; loss of appetite; or trembling or shaking of hands.

Biologic Agents

Biological agents are a new class of medications made of synthetic proteins. These drugs may be made of antibodies that block high levels of inflammatory proteins in patients with arthritis. The drugs available include etanercept (Enbrel) which blocks the protein TNF, and was approved in 1998 by the FDA for RA treatment in adults, and in 1999 for the treatment of JRA. Infliximab (Remicade) is another anti-TNF medication that is approved to treat RA and has begun testing in JRA.

Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) is used to treat several childhood rheumatic diseases. It is usually given intravenously once a month. It is sometimes used as part of the treatment of systemic JRA. Side effects include the risk of allergic reactions, headaches, stomachache and flu-like symptoms.

Researchers are developing other experimental biologic therapies that are aimed at specific proteins to control a variety of different diseases.

Glucocorticoid Drugs

Glucocorticoid medications (Dexamethasone, Methylprednisolone, Cortef, Prednisolone and Prednisone) are the most potent anti-inflammatory agents. These drugs are used to treat a variety of rheumatic diseases when the disease is severe or has not responded to other drugs. Sometimes glucocorticoids are used for a few weeks until other slower medications can become effective in controlling the arthritis.

Because of their many side effects, glucocorticoids must be used with caution. If these drugs are prescribed, the lowest possible dose should be used for the shortest length of time. Usually the drug is given by mouth as a pill or liquid. It can also be given as an injection into the joint itself, or into a muscle, or vein (IV).

Possible side effects of these medications include high blood pressure, osteoporosis (brittle bones), Cushing's syndrome (weight gain, moon face, thin skin, muscle weakness) cataracts, slowed growth rate, reduced resistance to infection, sudden mood swings, increased appetite and weight gain, or increased risk for ulcers. Many of these side effects occur only when the dose is more than 7.5 to 10 mg a day (dose for an average size adult who is taking prednisone).

Glucocorticoids should never be stopped suddenly if they have been taken for more than a month. Your child's own natural gluco-corticoids may not be produced enough after using these drugs for a month or more. A schedule to slowly discontinue or taper these medications will be given to you by your doctor and will prevent this problem. A child taking glucocorticoids should wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace. This will alert emergency medical personnel to give extra medication if the child has surgery or is seriously injured.
Analgesics

Analgesics (acetaminophen [Tylenol, Panadol], tramadol [Ultram]) do not relieve inflammation, but provide pain relief. They should be taken only under a physician's advice in conjunction with other medications. Acetaminophen has few side effects when taken in small doses; very high doses (overdoses) can cause liver damage. Side effects of tramadol may include dizziness, nausea, constipation, headache and sleepiness.

Exercise

Exercise is a very important part of treatment for juvenile arthritis. For children with arthritis, exercise helps keep joints mobile; keep muscles strong; regain lost motion or strength in a joint or muscle; make everyday activities like walking or dressing easier; and improve general fitness and endurance.
Therapeutic Exercise

While medications reduce pain and inflammation, only therapeutic exercise can restore lost motion in a joint. These exercises can make it easier for children to walk and perform other activities of daily living such as walking, eating and writing.

Range-of-motion exercises keep joints flexible and are especially important for children who have lost motion in a joint, or whose joints have become fixed in a bent position. Strengthening exercises build muscles.

A physical or occupational therapist will teach the child how to perform these exercises at home. Most of these must be done daily. The therapist will show to the child how to use hot baths, hot packs and/or cold treatments before exercise to make the therapy easier.

Sports and Recreational Activities

Recreational activities help to the sick child exercise joints and muscles, develop important social skills and have fun. But remember that recreational activities cannot take the place of therapeutic exercise.

Participating in sports and recreational activities helps children with arthritis develop confidence in their physical abilities. Encourage activities that exercise the joints and muscles without putting too much stress on them, like swimming.

Strong muscles and joint protection are the keys to participating in sports. Although contact sports are never recommended, even aggressive sports like soccer and basketball may not be off-limits for sick child. Special exercises and protective equipment can further reduce the risk of injury, and help to the child play sports she likes.

Splints

Splints help keep joints in the correct positionand relieve pain. If a joint is developing a contraction (bent in the wrong position), a splint may help stretch that joint gradually back to its normal position. Commonly used splints include knee extension splints, wrist extension splints and ring splints for the fingers.

An occupational or physical therapist usually makes the splint. Arm and hand splints are made from plastic; leg splints are sometimes made of cast material. The therapist custom-makes the splint for your child and can adjust the splint as your child grows, or as the joint position changes.

Morning Stiffness Relief

Many children experience a period of stiffness when they get up each day. This morning stiffness can be one of the best measures of disease activity; the longer the stiffness lasts, the more active the disease. Taking a hot bath or shower, sleeping in a sleeping bag or warm bed, doing range-of-motion exercises, or using a hot or cold pack can help relieve it. Although most children do better with warmth, there are a few who respond to cold treatments (a plastic bag filled with ice or frozen vegetables works well).

Surgery

Surgery is rarely used to treat juvenile arthritis in the early course of the disease. However, surgery can be used to relieve pain, release joint contractures and replace a damaged joint.

In joint replacement surgery, the entire joint is replaced with an artificial joint. This procedure is used mainly in older children whose growth is complete or almost complete and whose joints are badly damaged by arthritis. This operation is usually used to replace the hip, knee or jaw joints. It can reduce pain and improve function.

Soft tissue release may sometimes help to improve the position of a joint which has pulled out of line by a contracture. In this operation, the surgeon cuts and repairs the tight tissues that caused the contracture, allowing the joint to return to a normal position.

Eye Care

Several forms of eye inflammation are associated with various forms of juvenile arthritis. However, frequent eye exams can identify inflammatory problems early and reduce the potential for serious eye complications.

Chronic iridocyclitis occurs most commonly in young girls with pauciarticular JRA whose blood contains an antibody protein called the ANA. This inflammation of the eyes may occur without obvious signs or symptoms. Therefore, it is important for all children with JRA to have their eyes checked by an ophthalmologist as soon as the diagnosis is suspected. This allows the doctor to detect any eye problems early and to begin proper treatment to avoid serious problems. Children diagnosed before 7 years old with pauciarticular JRA and a positive ANA are at the greatest risk of developing chronic uveitis. Their eyes should be checked every 3 months for several years. Acute or sudden onset of eye inflammation is called iritis. This may occur particularly in the spondyloarthropathies.

The ophthalmologist will give to the child a complete medical eye evaluation, including a slit lamp test. This simple and painless procedure can spot problems before symptoms are present. Children should continue to get periodic eye exams, since eye inflammation may occur when the joint disease is inactive. The frequency of eye exams will depend on sick child's risk for developing eye problems.

Dental Care

Children with arthritis may have limited jaw movement, which can make brushing and flossing their teeth difficult. Your child's dentist may suggest various toothbrush handles, electric toothbrushes, floss holders, toothpicks and rinses that will help your child maintain healthy teeth and gums.

Medications may also affect your child's oral health and development. Always inform your dentist about the status of your child's disease and the medications she is taking. The dentist will consider these when planning any treatment, general anesthesia, sedation or oral surgery. Older children who have had joint replacements may require an antibiotic before dental treatment.

The joint in front of the ears, where the lower jaw connects to the base of the skull, is called the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Arthritis may affect this joint in the same way it does others, by causing pain, stiffness and altered growth. Jaw exercises and therapy may be recommended for the pain and stiffness. If the lower jaw does not develop properly, it may create an overbite. Your child's dentist may recommend an early consultation with an orthodontist if this occurs. Surgery is also sometimes necessary for this condition.

A child with active arthritis may not always have the stamina for even routine dental work. If possible, schedule appointments when your child has the most stamina, or schedule shorter appointments.
Diet

Children with arthritis sometimes have poor appetites, leading to weight loss and poor growth; medication side effects may cause excessive weight gain.

Chronic disease places increased demands on a child's body and creates a need for additional calorie intake. Children may have little appetite when they feel ill, or may have a difficult time eating when they have painful joints or limited mobility. Some children with arthritis might feel too sick or too tired to eat. Encourage him/her to eat a well-balanced diet at regular meal times and include planned snacks even when he/she may not feel like eating. Try to reduce the amount of food he/she needs to eat by increasing the nutrient content of each bite of food or drink. For example, add melted cheese, gravies, margarine and dips to foods, and offer whole milk. This can help prevent weight loss and poor growth.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, children with arthritis may gain too much weight due to medication side effects or limited activity. Excess weight puts more stress on joints such as knees, hips and ankles. Appropriate exercise combined with eating a well-balanced diet based on the basic four food groups can help your child keep a normal body weight. A registered dietitian can teach you ways to improve your child's diet.

Many children with arthritis need additional calcium and vitamin D to help strengthen their bones. Giving your child a multivitamin with breakfast is usually worth the effort.

Medications for Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

Drug Type/Name(s): Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

(ibuprofen, naproxen, tolmentin, aspirin, choline magnesium, trisalicylate, indomethacin)

Dosage: Taken one to four times per day in pill or liquid form. Must be taken three to four weeks to determine if helping to control pain and inflammation.

Possible Side Effects: Possible side effects include occasional stomach pains, nausea and vomiting, anemia, headache, blood in the urine, fluid retention, thinning and scarring of the skin (especially with naproxen), difficulty concentrating, stomach ulcer.

Aspirin
Possible side effects include pains or stomach bleeding. Toxic reactions can occur from too high a dose built up in your child's system (rapid or deep breathing, ringing in the ears, decrease in hearing, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, irritability, unusual behavior and black stools). A rare complication called Reye's syndrome can occur in children who have the chicken pox or the flu and are taking aspirin

Cautions: Young children should not

suck or chew on aspirin

as this

may damage the chewing

surfaces

of the teeth and irritate the

gums.

Instead, try crushing the

dose

and having the child swallow

it in a small amount of a

favorite food such as applesauce

or yogurt.

The different NSAIDs

should never be combined

without

doctor's instructions


Drug Type/Name(s): Disease-Modifying Anti-Inflammatory Drugs(DMARDS)

(hydroxychloroquine, sulfasalazine, penicillamine, gold compounds)

Dosage: Hydroxychloroquine

(Plaquenil)
Given in pill form. May take 3 to 6 months to work.

Sulfasalazine
(Azulfadine)
Given in pill form. Takes 6-12 weeks to work.

Gold Compounds
(Auranofin, Ridaura, Myochrysine, Solganol)
Oral form taken daily. Injections usually given weekly for 5 or 6 months, then once or twice a month for as long as necessary. Take 3 to 6 months to work.

Penicillamina
(DePen, Cuprimine)
Given in pill form. Takes up to 6 months to work.

Possible Side Effects: Hydroxychloroquine

(Plaquenil)
Side effects may include upset stomach, skin rash. Rare complication, eye damage.

Sulfasalazine
(Azulfadine)
Side effects may include stomach uoset, achiness, diarrhea, dizziness, headache, light sensitivity, itching, appetite loss, liver abnormalities, lowered blood count, nausea, vomiting or rash.

Gold Compounds
(Auranofin, Ridaura, Myochrysine, Solganol)
Side effects may include skin rash, mouth sores, kidney problems, a low blood count, anemia.

Penicillamina
(DePen, Cuprimine)
Side effects may include diarrhea, skin rash, hives or itching, low blood counts, mouth sores, nausea or vomiting, stomach pain, loss of taste or appetite, swollen glands, unusual bleeding or bruising, weakness.

Cautions: Hydroxychloroquine

(Plaquenil)
Child should have his/her

eyes checked every

six months by an

ophthalmologist familiar

with this medication.

Sulfasalazine
(Azulfadine)
Can sometimes have

more side

effects in children

with systemic onset JRA.


Drug Type/Name(s): Immune System Medications

(methotrexate, azathioprine, cyclophosphamide, cyclosporine, leflunomide)

Dosage: Methotrexate

(Rheumatrex)
Given weekly either orally in pill or liquid form or by injection. Takes 4-8 weeks to work.

Azathioprine
(Imuran)
Given in pill form. Takes about 3 months to work.

Cyclophosphamide
(Cytoxan)
Given daily in pill form or in a single dose intravenously, usually once a month.

Cyclosporine
(Sandimmune)
Given in liquid or pill form. Blood levels often checked to determine best dosage. May take one to two months to work.

Leflunomide
(Arava)
Given once a day as a tablet. It may take 6-12 weeks to be effective.

Possible Side Effects: Methotrexate

(Rheumatrex)
Side effects may include nausea, mouth sores, moodiness, diarrhea, low white blood cell count, lung irritation, infections and liver irritation.

Azathioprine
(Imuran)
Side effects may include cough, fever and chills, loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting, skin rash, unusual bleeding or bruising, unusual tiredness or weakness, possibly sterility.

Cyclophosphamide
(Cytoxan)
Side effects may include blood in the urine or burning on urination, confusion or agitation, cough, dizziness, fever and chills, infertility, loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting, unusual bleeding or bruising, unusaul tiredness or weakness, increased risk of cancer.

Cyclosporine
(Sandimmune)
Side effects may include bleeding, tender or enlarged gums, fluid retention, high blood pressure, increased hair growth, kidney problems, loss of appetite, trembling or shaking of hands.

Leflunomide
(Arava)
Side effects may include liver irritation, diarrhea, hair loss, infections, low white blood counts.

Cautions: Methotrexate

(Rheumatrex)
Avoid all alcohol

intake and smoking

while on this medication.


Drug Type/Name(s): Glucocorticoids

(prednisolone, prednisone, dexamethasone, methylprednisolone, cortef)

Dosage: If prescribed, the lowest possible dose should be used for the shortest length of time.

Normally administered orally in pill or liquid form but can also be administered intravenously.

Possible Side Effects: Possible side effects include high blood presssure, osteoporosis (brittle bones), Cushing's syndrome (weight gain, moon face, thin skin, muscle weakness) cataracts, slowed growth rate, reduced resistance to infection, sudden mood swings, increased appetite and weight gain, increased risk for ulcers.

Many of these side effects only occur when the dose is more than 7.5 to 10 mg a day (dose for an average size adult).

Cautions: Glucocorticoids should

never be stopped

suddenly if they

have been taken for more

than a month.

A schedule to slowly

discontinue or taper

these medications

should be given by your

doctor. A child taking

glucocorticoids should

wear a medical bracelet

or necklace.


Drug Type/Name(s): Analgesics

(acetominophen, tramadol)

Dosage: Should be taken only under a physician's advice in conjunction with other medications

Possible Side Effects: Acetominophen

(Tylenol, Panadol)
Few side effects when taken in small doses. Very high doses (overdoses) can cause liver damage.

Tramadol
(Ultram)
S ide effects may include dizziness, nausea, constipation, headache, sleepiness.

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Comments 3 comments

D.Virtual.Doctor profile image

D.Virtual.Doctor 6 years ago from Europe Author

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is a common disease of early childhood, has progressive duration, and may lead to invalidity or even death. It is very important to know the diagnostic criteria of the disease to put the correct diagnosis and give individual effective treatment for the patient.

D.Virtual.Doctor


MosLadder profile image

MosLadder 4 years ago from Irvine, CA

Wow, a very thorough hub. Well researched and written!


D.Virtual.Doctor profile image

D.Virtual.Doctor 4 years ago from Europe Author

Thanks MosLadder

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