By Rakesh Gollen
Juvenile arthritis (JA) is a term used to describe arthritis in children, also referred as pediatric rheumatic disease, which is the combined term given to describe the many other types of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can develop in children under 16. It is known to affect nearly 300,000 children in the United States.
The major types of JA include:
- Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (idiopathic means from “unknown causes”), which is most common type and includes six subtypes (oligoarthritis, polyarthritis, systemic, enthesitis-related, juvenile psoriatic arthritis, or undifferentiated).
- Juvenile dermatomycosis, which causes muscle weakness and a skin rash on the eyelids and knuckles.
- Juvenile lupus, which is known to affect joints (along with skin, blood, kidneys, and other areas of body).
- Juvenile scleroderma, which affects the skin.
- Kawasaki disease (causes blood-vessel inflammation).
- Mixed connective tissue disease, which is associated with very high levels of a particular antinuclear antibody called anti-RNP.
- Fibromyalgia (which cause stiffness and aching, along with fatigue, disrupted sleep, and other symptoms).
To date, no single known cause has been reported for most forms of juvenile arthritis, and it has been linked to genetics through ongoing research. Some of these types of juvenile arthritis are also known to affect the musculoskeletal system, eyes, skin, muscles, and gastrointestinal tract. At the same time many of these different types of juvenile arthritis share common symptoms, like pain (mostly in the morning or after a nap), joint swelling (joint may feel hot, or it may even feel warm to the touch), redness, stiffness (particularly in the morning), fever (frequent fevers accompanied by malaise or fatigue), and warmth, but biologically each type are linked differently. It is recommended to all parents to pursue an accurate diagnosis for the treatment of JA, which can be a long and detailed process as there is no single blood test that confirms any type of JA.
The research and scientific community has been focused on treating juvenile arthritis for last couple of years. In 2014, only hundreds of clinical studies were conducted worldwide and only two leading arthritis organizations in the United States joined forces to coordinate and advance research in the field. Unfortunately, there is no cure for juvenile arthritis to date, although using steroids and Ayurveda holds some promise to this alignment, but most of this treatment plan includes a combination of exercise and healthy eating habits. This month is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, but whatever the month, it is very important for parents not to ignore any signs and to support their children fully. And being a pharmaceutical scientist, I urge pharmaceutical companies, especially leadership, to focus on the treatment of juvenile arthritis to give a better life to coming generations by improving the child’s quality of life.