When you think of arthritis, you probably imagine a senior citizen struggling to open a jar, because that is what they portray in medication commercials. Unfortunately, arthritis can occur in patients of any age – including children. Juvenile arthritis affects approximately 300,000 American children under the age of 16. The disease has different symptoms in children and generally has a much better prognosis. Here are some things you should know about juvenile arthritis:
There are Different Subsets of Juvenile Arthritis
While more subsets of juvenile arthritis are being researched, we started with three different types: polyarticular, pauciarticular, and systemic juvenile arthritis. Each of these subsets affects different joints and presents with different symptoms.
Polyarticular Juvenile Arthritis
The polyarticular subset of juvenile arthritis affects many different joints – usually the small joints of the hand in addition to other joints. This type is similar to rheumatoid arthritis in adults and is twice more likely to develop in girls than boys. Symptoms include low-grade fever, weight loss, and anemia.
Pauciarticular Juvenile Arthritis
This is the most common type of juvenile arthritis, typically affecting the knees, elbows, wrists, and ankles. This form of juvenile arthritis affects four joints or fewer and is often asymmetric in symptoms. For example, the left elbow may be affected and not the right. This type of arthritis is more common in girls.
Systemic Juvenile Arthritis
This type of juvenile arthritis is much different from other forms of the disease because it starts with generalized symptoms that affect the internal organs and other body parts. Early onset usually consists of fevers that come and go and a rash on the chest and thighs. Other symptoms include enlarged lymph nodes and spleen, inflammation of the heart and surrounding tissue, high white blood cell count, anemia, fatigue, and weight loss. This form of juvenile arthritis is rare, and in 75% of cases subsides without long-term damage.