Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) is the commonest type of arthritis that affects children. Formerly called Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, its name was later changed to show the difference between arthritis for children and that of adults.
Symptoms of JIA
The symptoms of JIA most commonly experienced by children are:
1. Joint pain and swelling
Children usually complain of joint and muscle pain, after a lot of strenuous physical activity. But a child with JIA will complain of such pain the moment he wakes up every morning or after a snooze. He may ache in the hands, feet, knees, neck and jaws, but this recedes as he starts using his limbs. He may refuse to walk or limp, trying not to use a particular joint. Over-the-counter tablets do not give any relief. JIA usually starts off very slowly and peaks when pain extends to both sides of the body.
2. Fever and fatigue
General JIA can lead to cause fever and rash. The child has fever of 103°F to 106°F once or twice each day, falling to normal between spikes. Fever may be felt on the face, chest, palms and feet. When the child scratches himself, he usually brings on the rash. He feels extremely tired.
3. Stiff joints
A child suffering with JIA is sure to have stiff joints, particularly on rising. He may limp or hold an arm or leg in one position. He may also perform all his normal activities with great physical difficulty, like holding a spoon in his hand. His condition usually improves after he gets moving.
A child with JIA will display swelling around the joints, in some cases there may be some redness too. This shows inflammation at the joints. He may complain that his joints feel hot. The swelling around his joints may remain with him for a few days or come and go, affecting the feet, hands and knees. This is a sure sign that he has JIA.
5. Eye problems
Conjunctivitis and other eye infections are common among children as they are contagious and are passed on during play at school. But pain in the eyes, blurred vision or continuous redness in the eyes are more serious symptoms. Some forms of juvenile arthritis cause inflammation of the uveitis and iritis and inflammation of the middle layer of the eye.
Children with JIA can cause rash on the skin, often due to eczema, poison ivy or a drug allergy. If they develop a pink rash on the cheeks, nose, chest, arms, knuckles and legs, it could be rheumatic disease. Sometimes, such rashes could ooze liquid or be itchy and persist for weeks.
7. Weight loss
You can spot JIA if you see a child unduly tired, with little or no appetite and losing weight.
8. Fatigue and loss of appetite
The pain associated with the joints can keep a child awake at night, causing him to feel tired in the morning. He might also lose his appetite and as he grows, will have trouble putting it on.
Home remedies for Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
JIA can be treated and managed at home in various ways, such as:
- Teach your child to lead as active a life as possible. He should not take to his bed because of the pain he endures. The more active he is, the better for him in the long-term. He should swim often and participate in water aerobics since they don’t stress out his joints.
- He should be put on to a physical therapy program that focuses on pain avoidance, home exercises and stretching exercises.
- Give your child a highly nutritious diet, though in this condition he might not have an appetite. His diet should contain vitamins, minerals, calcium and magnesium. It is not known if this improves the condition of the child, but it certainly will help his bones gain in strength and flexibility.
- Teach your child techniques to deal with the pain of JIA. Often, by combining analgesics with other pain-relieving techniques will balance out pain relief and the least unwanted side- effects.
- Techniques like meditation, deep breathing, biofeedback, guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation can help children get over the pain. A hot bath, warm bed and hot packs can get over the stiffness of early mornings.
JIA can be a difficult medical condition for a child to bear, but with his parents’ help and a doctor’s guidance, he can get over it in some time.