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Diagnosing Juvenile Arthritis

What is the treatment for juvenile arthritis?

Treatment for juvenile arthritis generally includes both exercise and medications. The treatment plans are also based on the type of juvenile arthritis. For instance, children who have polyarticular juvenile arthritis and who have a positive result on the rheumatoid factor test have the potential for more joint damage and may need more aggressive treatment.

In general, though, treatment for juvenile arthritis has several main goals:

  • To relieve pain
  • To reduce swelling
  • To increase joint mobility and strength
  • To prevent joint damage and complications

The following types of drugs may be used to treat juvenile arthritis:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are used to treat pain and swelling. There are NSAIDs available over the counter and others that are prescription only. NSAIDs include products such as ibuprofen and naproxen. Possible side effects are nausea and stomach ache; these drugs should be taken with food. Aspirin is included in the NSAID category, but is rarely prescribed for treating arthritis.
  • Slow-acting anti-inflammatory drugs (SAARDs) are used to treat pain and swelling over time and usually take several weeks or more to work. These drugs are also called disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). The doctor may prescribe drugs in this category in combination with NSAIDs. Lab tests to check for possible side effects are usually necessary. One of the most commonly used DMARDs is methotrexate (Rheumatrex). Other DMARDs include hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), and drugs that block tumor necrosis factor (TNF), also called anti-TNF drugs. Etanercept (Enbrel) is an example of an anti-TNF medication used to treat juvenile arthritis.
  • Corticosteroids are also used to treat pain and swelling. Sometimes, before any other treatment is tried, steroids are given as an injection into the affected joint. In certain cases, the doctor might prescribe oral steroids (taken by mouth), but these are generally avoided in children because of adverse side effects, which may include poor growth and weight gain.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on January 14, 2015
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