July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month
Each July, Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month is observed in an effort to bring awareness to the nearly 300,000 children under the age of 16 who are affected by pediatric arthritis and rheumatologic conditions. Arthritis typically affects joints, but juvenile arthritis can involve the eyes, skin and gastrointestinal tract as well.
Juvenile arthritis (JA) is actually an umbrella term used to describe the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can develop in children.
The most common type of JA is juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) – sometimes referred to as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) – although researchers are working to develop a more sophisticated understanding of the differences between specific types of arthritis in children. One thing researchers have realized is that JRA is not simply a pint-sized replica of the condition that affects adults. It is believed that only about 10 percent of children have a disease that closely mirrors rheumatoid arthritis in adults.
Along with JIA, pediatric rheumatologists treat a myriad of other conditions in which arthritis is either the primary component or a symptom of an underlying disease. These include:
- Juvenile Dermatomyositis: An inflammatory disease that causes muscle weakness and a skin rash on the eyelids and knuckles. Approximately one in five children also has arthritis, but it is likely to be mild.
- Juvenile Lupus: A disease of the immune system that can affect joints, skin, kidneys, blood and other areas of the body.
- Juvenile Scleroderma: Describes a group of conditions that causes skin to tighten and harden. There are two basic forms, one of which affects the entire body and one that is localized.
- Mixed Connective Tissue Disease: This disease may include features of arthritis, lupus and scleroderma, but also encompass other non-inflammatory causes of pain and stiffness, sometimes chronic, in children, such as fibromyalgia and growing pains.
To learn more about juvenile arthritis, please visit www.arthritis.org.