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Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA)

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Which Medications Are Used to Treat Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis? continued...

Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs)

DMARDs may be added to the medication regimen to slow or stop the progression of the joint disease. These drugs also help with joint stiffness, pain, and swelling.

The true effects of DMARDs are not felt immediately and may take about three to six months to work. This is why DMARDs are referred to as "slow-acting." Examples of DMARDs include Plaquenil, Azulfidine, and Methotrexate.

Because DMARDs are strong drugs, the child will need frequent tests to monitor the drug and its side effects such as anemia, low blood count, and kidney and liver problems. Other side effects may include stomachaches, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, headaches, rashes, loss of appetite, and weakness.

Biological modifying agents

Biological agents, or biologics, are also DMARDs. Biologics are made of synthetic proteins and antibodies that block TNF and other substances that cause inflammation.

Examples of biologics include Enbrel, Humira, Kineret, and Remicade.

Potentially serious side effects of the biologics include allergic reactions and an increased risk of infection including tuberculosis. Because some biologics have only been FDA-approved for use in adults, clinical trials are under way to check their effectiveness in children. Check with your doctor about which ones are appropriate for children.

Corticosteroids (steroids)

These powerful anti-inflammatory drugs are usually only prescribed when the patient does not respond to other treatment or if the disease is severe.

Steroids come in pills or liquids. When a patient is only affected in a single joint, a steroid injection may be given directly into that joint.

Oral steroids are usually prescribed for short periods of time and in low dosages. There are some serious side effects associated with long-term usage. Side effects include stunted growth, ulcers, mood swings, weight gain, moon face, muscle weakness, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, cataracts, and infections.

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

What Exercises Are Used to Treat Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Exercise and physical activity are important for children with JRA. Exercise helps reduce pain, increase muscle strength, keep joints moving in a normal range of motion, and improve endurance.

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