More About JRA

   Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, or JRA, is a common form of arthritis in children and teens. Arthritis is a chronic condition that causes pain and swelling in joints. It is an autoimmune disease without a known cause. (Autoimmune = Your own immune system attacking your own body.) About 1 in 1,000 kids have some form of arthritis, though the severity is greatly varied.
   There are three different main types of JRA. These types include systemic, polyarticular, and pauciarticular. 
Systemic JRA involves joint pain/swelling, fears, and rashes. This is the least common type.
Polyarticular JRA involves a lot of joints, including large and small joints. (This is the type of arthritis I have.)
Pauciarticular JRA, also known as oligoarticular JRA, involves less than five joints and is the most common form of JRA. 
   There are also conditions such as psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis that can exist in children, both of which are not too uncommon. 
   Symptoms of arthritis mainly consist of joint pain, stiffness and swelling, though it can include uveitis, swollen lymph nodes, fevers, and rashes as well (more commonly seen in systemic JRA). Though blood test can assist in the diagnosis, blood tests can be perfectly normal in children and teens with JRA. The determining factor is usually the presence of fluid in the joints. 
   Kids with arthritis may have to get frequent blood tests, take a variety of medications, see an opthamologist, and get MRIs, x-rays, and bone scans. NSAIDS, such as ibuprofen/Advil are often used, along with Methotrexate, a DMARD that decreases and prevents swelling. Biologic drugs, mainly Enbrel and Humira, also have to be used if the methotrexate and NSAIDS are not adequate. Physical therapy is also a common treatment for arthritis, as pain can result in extreme stiffness and muscle weakness. Corticosteroid injections can be used to relieve inflammation, which often decreases pain levels, but can be dangerous if used too frequently. In severe cases, children with JRA can require surgery or joint replacement. 
   Children with arthritis are encouraged to stay active, though this can prove challenging due to pain and immobility resulting from arthritis. Muscles can weaken during periods of inactivity. It is important for children with JRA to stay healthy and strong. Symptoms of arthritis can come and go. 
   Poor school attendance and disability may result from arthritis, though it is rarely life threatening. Almost 300,000 kids in the United States of America have some form of arthritis. Juvenile arthritis can cause depression and other psychological problems. It can make it hard to fit in at school and hard to concentrate and enjoy activities. Kids with arthritis may also experience trouble sleeping due to discomfort and pain. 
   Overall, even with all of the ups and downs of arthritis, children living with the disease can live a fairly normal and very lovely life. 

Here are some links for more information on juvenile arthritis:

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