Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. Part 1

Arthritis does not strike just older people. It’s one of the most common childhood disorders, afflicting nearly 300,000 children in the United States. Of these, an estimated 71,000 suffer from the type called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA).

JRA is an autoimmune disorder that affects the synovium, the lining of the space surrounding a joint. The immune system, which defends the body with inflammation, seems to be overactive in JRA. It attacks what it erroneously identifies as infection with continuous inflammation. This results in stiff, swollen, painful joints.

JRA can occur at any age, but usually strikes during the toddler or early teens. Its cause is unknown, although researchers suspect genetic predisposition and environmental triggers, such as infection, stress or injury. Its course is unpredictable and often fluctuates, with periods of flare-up and remission. For most children, flare-ups become milder and less frequent with time.

Many children simply outgrow JRA. Others deal with it over a lifetime. Its effect on school, social life and family relationships is undeniable. Yet today, more than ever, there is a strong support network and advanced treatments which make JRA manageable.

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