Arthritis and related conditions affects some 285,000 children in the United States. Medically, it is different from the adult form, and in some cases it is far more severe.
The most common forms of rheumatic diseases in children are Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA), Lupus, and juvenile Ankylosing Spondylitis. Although no cure exists at present, advances in medical research have produced new treatments that moderate the effects of these diseases.
JRA occurs in 4 forms:
- Polyarticular, which affects five more joints.
- Systemic, which affects the child's internal organs, including the heart and liver, as well as the joints. It may cause joint deformities and, in sever cases, affect the child's growth.
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) affects not only the joints and muscles but also the skin, kidneys, nervous system, lungs, heart, and blood-forming organs.
- Ankylosing Spondylitis may affect many joints but targets primarily the joints of the spine and the sacroiliac joints connecting the pelvis to the spine.
The peak time of onset of juvenile arthritis is between the ages of 1-3 and 8-12 years. This can be the start of a lifetime of pain and physical limitation.