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What Is Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis?

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How Is It Treated?

Treatment usually includes medications along with exercise. The goals are to:

  • Curb inflammation
  • Ease pain and swelling
  • Strengthen joints and help them move better
  • Prevent joint damage and other complications

Which Medications Treat It?

Medications for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis include:

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

NSAIDs are used to reduce pain, fever, and inflammation.

NSAIDs come as a liquid or pill. People typically take them from one to four times a day. Some common NSAIDs are aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, and tolmetin.

While NSAIDs ease pain and inflammation, they also have side effects, such as stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, headache, and anemia. Sometimes the doctor will give another stomach-protecting medication to take with the NSAIDs to make stomach bleeding less likely.

Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs)

These drugs can slow or stop the disease from getting worse. They also help with joint stiffness, pain, and swelling. Examples of DMARDs include hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), methotrexate, and sulfasalazine (Azulfidine).

It may take about 3 to 6 months for these medicines to work.

Because DMARDs are strong drugs, your child will need frequent tests to check for side effects such as anemia, low blood count, and kidney and liver problems. They may also have stomachaches, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, headaches, rashes, loss of appetite, and weakness.

Biologic Drugs

The medicines are genetically engineered to work on the immune system. They include adalimumab (Humira), anakinra (Kineret), etanercept (Enbrel), and infliximab (Remicade).

If you take them, you are more likely to get an infection, including serious diseases like tuberculosis. Some biologics are only approved by the FDA for use in adults. Check with your doctor about which ones are appropriate for children.

Corticosteroids (Steroids)

Doctors usually only prescribe these powerful anti-inflammatory drugs if other treatments don’t work or the disease is severe.

Steroids come in pills or liquids. When someone only has one affected joint, they may get a steroid shot.

Pills or liquids are usually prescribed for short periods of time and in low dosages. Serious side effects are linked to long-term usage. These include stunted growth, ulcers, mood swings, weight gain, "moon face," muscle weakness, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, cataracts, and infections.

Examples of steroids include dexamethasone, hydrocortisone, methylprednisolone, prednisolone, and prednisone.

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