What Is Chronic Childhood Arthritis?
Just like adults, children also get arthritis. Arthritis is a condition where joints get swollen or inflamed. Joints are where two or more bones meet and are joined together. When arthritis appears in children, it is called chronic childhood arthritis or juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). Earlier this disease was also called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis or juvenile chronic arthritis.
JIA may affect children at any age, of any ethnic background or geographical territory. While some children are cured of this disease after treatment, others have to continue with medication even in adulthood.
In JIA there is inflammation in one or more joints, sometimes there is inflammation in the eye too. Symptoms must last more than six weeks for the disease to be termed as chronic.
Many types of arthritis fall under the JIA. They are:
- Enthesitis-related arthritis.
- Juvenile psoriatic arthritis.
- Other: Any type of arthritis that shows symptoms up to six weeks but of unknown causes.
What Are The Symptoms Of Chronic Childhood Arthritis?
The most common symptom of arthritis is swelling and pain in the joints. Usually, the joints of knees, hands, and feet are affected. Pain is more severe in the mornings or after a nap. Other symptoms include:
- Stiffness in joints.
- Fever, rash.
- Joint pain, sleeping trouble.
- Difficulty in walking, morning stiffness causes a limp while walking.
- Sometimes children suffering from JIA may also get inflammatory eye disease. If not treated on time, there may be permanent damage to the eye and child may suffer from loss of vision.
What Are The Causes Of Chronic Childhood Arthritis?
Scientists are still trying to find the exact cause of JIA. Genetic and environmental factors may also be the reasons.
- JIA is an autoimmune disease where the immune system of our body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues. Experts believe a combination of these factors may trigger the disease:
- An active immune system which attacks joint cells and tissues.
- Certain types of infections and viruses cause the immune system to attack own body cells.
- Certain genes passed from parents to children may cause the child to get JIA.
What Are The Things One Should Do To Manage Chronic Childhood Arthritis?
JIA hampers the child’s ability to be socially active and participating in extracurricular activities is difficult. But the following tips will help the child to cope with arthritis and lead a normal life:
- Learn about your child’s disease, treatment and therapy options.
- Give moral and emotional support.
- Talk to the child’s school staff and work closely with them to see if your child has any special needs at school; talking to a support group will help to find out alternative ways of treatment.
- Get the child physical and occupational therapy. The exercises will help reduce pain and stiffness, improve limb functionality and strength.
- Use assistive devices like Velcro fasteners and enlarged handles to help the child in the day to day activities.
- Encourage the child to have a warm water bath first thing in the morning to relieve morning stiffness.
- Keeping the joints warm at night reduces morning stiffness in joints. You can keep joints warm by getting the child to wear footed nightwear, thermal underwear, using a sleeping bag or an electric blanket or a heating pad on the joint area.
What Are The Things One Should Avoid To Manage Chronic Childhood Arthritis?
- Do not discourage the child from participating in physical activities in school. Keep in mind the advice given by the child’s doctor while selecting the physical exercise or sports.
- Do not treat the child differently. The child is normal with perfect cognitive functions; he only needs support in some physical day to day activities.
- Do not stop the child when he vents out anger regarding his condition. Rather explain to him about the disease and his limitations.
What Are The Best Foods For Chronic Childhood Arthritis?
- A growing child requires healthy nutrition and a child suffering from JIA requires a balanced, healthy diet which is not high in calories. If a child is overweight, the symptoms of arthritis will worsen, hence the diet should be such that it is high in nutrition and moderate in fat content.
- A child with JIA has to eat sufficient amount of iron every day. Foods high in iron are green leafy vegetables, peanuts, eggs, baked beans, red beans, cereals, etc.
- Omega 3 fatty acids have proved to be helpful in the improving the health of a JIA child. Include oily fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, etc., walnuts, flax seeds in your child’s diet.
- Antioxidants are helpful in reducing joint inflammation. All fruits are high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Fruits also improve the body’s immunity.
- Calcium and Vitamin D are essential for bone growth and development. Calcium is found in milk and dairy products, green leaves, broccoli, beans, almonds, oranges and other fruits.
- The child’s energy requirement is obtained by health carbohydrates: whole grains like wheat, quinoa, oats, millets, barley, etc. will give energy as well as the fibre.
What Are The Worst Foods For Chronic Childhood Arthritis?
- Being obese adds extra burden o the joints. Also, the body produces particular chemicals and hormones which trigger inflammation.
- Avoid foods high in saturated fats. Limit red meat, whole milk, cheese and tropical oils.
- Avoid trans-fat containing foods like chips, fried foods, hydrogenated vegetable oils, pre-packaged snacks, canned foods, margarine, etc. Saturated fats and trans-fats both pose a risk to the well being of the child.
- Avoid sugary foods as they contain empty calories with very less nutritional value. White rice, refined flour, and sugary foods spike up blood glucose level which promotes the production of chemicals which are pro-inflammatory.
- Excessive consumption of salt may cause water retention and aggravate inflammation. Limit salt usage in cooking. Packaged food, canned food, and junk food all contain large quantities of salt.
What Are The Medicines For Chronic Childhood Arthritis?
What Are The Tips To Manage Chronic Childhood Arthritis?
JIA is treatable, and in spite of the symptoms, children can lead normal lives with proper treatment and family support. Living with JIA means making necessary changes in the child’s lifestyle as well as in the parents’. Very often, the social life of young kids suffering from JIA is affected; hence they require emotional support and counselling from therapists.