Thursday, January 3, 2013

About Juvenile Arthritis

Many of you know that our 4 year old has been diagnosed with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis.  I would like to share a little of our journey with this disease and some information that I have found as I learn more about helping him cope with it.

At around 7 months old Manasseh started having fingers and toes swell up seemingly at random.  We quickly took him to the pediatrician, who looked him over and called another doctor into the room to look at him as well.  Neither doctor could come up with a "logical" cause to the swelling.  They sent us for a series of blood tests, even an x-ray on my little guy's hand.  The doctors said it looked kind of like arthritis but they had never seen arthritis on a child so young before.  Yes, my children like to stump doctors.

After his blood work came back positive for ANA, an antibody that suggests the presence of autoimmune disease, the pediatrician sent us to the children's hospital to consult with a rheumatologist.  The blood results at the children's hospital were negative for ANA.  His swelling went away, and we dropped it.

The following fall his swellings returned, but his new doctor did not think it was a big deal or worth taking more blood from him to try and come up with a diagnosis since the first set was inconclusive.  When he was 3, he started to tell us when his fingers and toes were hurting.  We returned to the rheumatologist and have now been working on healing with medicines for about 8 months.  3 weeks ago he started a new medicine, a stronger one to help deal with the swelling.  I am an anxious mama as I look at what his future could be with arthritis.  I love my boy and will continue to work toward his health and healing.

Just a couple swollen joints on Manasseh's hand.

What is arthritis?  It is actually a group of more than 100 disorders that cause joint and tissue damage.  Juvenile arthritis is the name given to the great number of autoimmune and inflamatory conditions effecting children 16 and younger.

What causes juvenile arthritis?  The cause is largely unknown.  Many researchers believe that some people may have a genetic predisposition to disorders in this family. 

What are they symptoms of JA?  Joint and muscle pain or inflamation.  This is frequently noted after resting for a long period and may be relieved after the child begins moving around.  Stiffness in the joints and muscles is another symptom.  Redness and swelling in joints, swollen joints often feel warmer and appear larger than their matching joints (for instance when comparing pinky fingers on opposite hands).  Children with JA may have fevers that do not appear to be related to illness.  These fevers may come and go within a matter of hours.  A few more symptoms may be rashes, weight loss, and eye problems. 

How are children effected in the long term?  Eye complications, including blindness are not uncommon for children with JIA.  Joint damage and deformity often result from this disease.  Some children experience stunted growth, long term loss of movement, joint replacements, and poor quality of life.

How are children treated for JA?  First off, there are currently no cures for JA.  The goals in treatment are pain management and reduced inflamation.  The two basic types of drugs used are made to either control the pain/swelling; and those that are designed to put arthritis into remission, helping to reduce future joint damage.  A number of drugs are available in each category.

What research is going on related to JA? While JIA is a fairly common problem, it appears as though there is very little research being done.  I was able to find that Arthritis National Research Foundation is doing some research on helping children and families handle arthritis.

Arthritis Foundation, Arthritis Today, Arthritis National Research Foundation

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  1. It is very useful, thanks a lot to brief us about this, bt i think that these all information reflecting in your blog is already their on many JA sites try to find some more information on this.

    But thank you so much that u tried ur best to knowledge us.

    Thanks a lot

  2. Hey, Jen! I didn't know that Nasa had JA. My mom had lupus. Her joints were always swollen, especially her fingers. Her doctor made her wear gloves any time it got cold just to help the circulation in her fingers. I hope his medication works! Is there any chance he'll grow out of it?

  3. Amanda, I haven't found anything that gives me an indication about whether or not he'll grow out of it. He is on a chemotherapy drug right now to try and force the arthritis into remission. He does need gloves when his hands get cold because he seems to also have raynauds (I spelled that wrong) which causes painful response to cold.

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