Juvenile arthritis can cause joint and tissue damage

April 28, 2003|by Christine L. Moats

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of arthritis in children. It may cause few problems over time, but it can be much more persistent and cause joint and tissue damage. JRA can produce serious complications in more severe cases.

Q: What is arthritis?

A: Arthritis is best described by four major changes that may develop in the joints. The most common features of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis are joint inflammation, joint contracture (stiff, bent joint), joint damage or change in growth. Other symptoms include joint stiffness following rest or decreased activity level (also referred to as morning stiffness or gelling) and weakness in muscles and other soft tissues around involved joints. Because juvenile rheumatoid arthritis affects each child differently, a child may not experience all of these changes. Children also vary in the degree to which they are affected by any particular symptom.

What can you do, as a parent, for a child with juvenile arthritis?

  • Make sure he sees all members of his health-care team as needed.

  • See that he takes his medications as prescribed.

  • Watch for any side effects the medications may cause.

  • Help him do exercises to relieve pain and stiffness.

  • Provide encouragement and support him and other family members.

  • Work with teachers and school officials to make sure his needs are met.

    Exercising for fitness is as important for people with arthritis as for anyone else. It can give you more energy, help you sleep better, control your weight, make your heart stronger, make your bones and muscles stronger, decrease depression, decrease fatigue, improve self-esteem and sense of well-being, and give you time to socialize with friends.

    If you have arthritis, you have more reasons to exercise:

    • To keep your joints from becoming too stiff

    • To keep the muscles around your joints strong

    • To keep bone and cartilage tissue strong and healthy

    • To improve your overall fitness

    You should always consult your physician before beginning an exercise program.

    - Sources:,

    This column does not constitute medical advice. Consult a health-care provider if you have a medical question. Christine L. Moats is a wellness coordinator at Washington County Hospital.

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