Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, otherwise known as JIA, is a condition affecting children and adolescents starting at an age less than 16 years old, of uncertain cause, involving joint pain, swelling, heat and/or redness, for at least six weeks duration. Sometimes patients with Systemic JIA can also develop fever and rash.
Children with JIA are often seen and managed by a specialist called a Paediatric Rheumatologist. They specialize in diagnosing and treating kids with JIA, as well as other inflammatory and non-inflammatory conditions. It is important to realize that there are other causes of joint pain, which require different treatments.
Anyone can be affected, and most people know someone who has arthritis. In Australia, about 1 to 4 in every 1000 children are affected by JIA. There are different types of JIA so not everyone is affected the same way and treatment is different.
Some patients with JIA can even be affected into adulthood. JIA is different to adult arthritis, so management is not the same as adult arthritis. Other factors such as growth, development, puberty, and adolescent issues are also considered.
Joint pain and swelling can be challenging to deal with, as it causes problems with daily activities, including difficulties walking, running, playing sports, going to school, and sometimes going to work. It can also have a social impact on patients, and affects parents and other family member’s lives too.
JIA is fortunately very treatable! Treatments usually consist of anti-inflammatory medications. This may include non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids (by mouth or by injection into affected joints). Some patients who have severe or recurrent arthritis may also need to start more specialized drugs, such as Methotrexate and biologic medications.
Some patients will also need to see other allied health team members. This may include:
• Rheumatology Nurses helps improve patient and parents’ understanding of JIA, co-ordinate patient care, discuss medications and teach or help administer medications to children.
• Physiotherapists help increase mobility by improving muscle strength, flexibility and co-ordination.
• Occupational Therapists help by working on hand movements and function, and find ways to improve day to day activities, and providing suggestions or plans to school.
• Podiatrists help to make walking easier.
• Child psychologist to help deal with any problems with coping, mood or social issues.
There is a chance that kids with JIA can get inflammation of a part of the eye, known as “uveitis”. Patients are often referred to either to their Optometrist or Ophthalmologist to look for uveitis.
If you have or know someone who may have joint pain and/or swelling, they may need to see their local doctor (GP) to get a referral to see a Paediatric Rheumatologist.
By Senq J Lee, Paediatrician and Paediatric Rheumatologist
“Tim has Arthritis” is an informative story book suitable for 4 – 8 year olds.
If your child (or a child that you know) has arthritis and you would like a copy of this free book, please call us on 1800 011 041. (Posting within Australia only).
Other age-specific booklets are also available.