juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), a childhood
disease that causes inflamed, swollen joints, often means making lifestyle
changes and adjustments. This can be frustrating and demanding for you, your
child, and your family. But many children with JIA do not have long-term
disease and disability and go on to lead healthy adult lives. To help both you
and your child cope with the challenges of chronic illness, work as a team with
your child's doctors and other health professionals.
Home, school, and community activities
exercise, taking medicines, and using assistive devices when needed will help
your child function as normally as possible at home and school.
Unlike osteoarthritis, a condition caused by wear and tear on joints, rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system targets a person's joint linings. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory condition that also affects other tissue, but the joints are usually the most severely affected.
Although doctors aren't sure of the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis, it's thought that it may result from a combination of genetics and environmental triggers. Some researchers believe an infection...
Range-of-motion exercises. Children with juvenile
idiopathic arthritis (JIA) must do regular exercises to maintain joint range
and muscle strength and prevent
contractures. If you have an infant or child younger
than 4 years of age who has arthritis, an adult will need to move the child's
joints through the range-of-motion exercises. Older children can do the
exercises themselves but may still need adult supervision. Participation in
activities such as swimming or biking with other children helps improve a
child's ability to function, builds self-confidence, and may decrease pain and
Balancing rest and activity. Children
with JIA may need extra naps or quiet time during the day to rest their joints
and regain their strength. But long periods without activity can cause your
child's joints to be less flexible and may eventually lead to weakness in
unused muscles. It is also important not to overdo activity, particularly if it
causes pain or stiffness the following day.
Taking medicines. Sticking to a medication schedule can be difficult for
children with JIA. An older child may find it easier to remember to take
medicine by using a pillbox or chart for a day's or week's worth of medicine.
Ask your doctor whether the dose of medicine can be adjusted so your child can
take it at times that are most convenient and will not make him or her feel
"different." To avoid stomach upset, you can also give nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) with meals or a small snack.
Assistive devices. Items that can help
your child hold onto, open, close, move, or do things more easily include:
Doorknob extenders, to avoid twisting the
wrist to open doors.
Extended or enlarged handles on keys, pencils,
silverware, combs, or toothbrushes that make it easier to hold and use these
Lightweight clothing and toys.
fasteners or simple, large fasteners on clothing, instead of small buttons or
A large pull tab or a loop of cord on a zipper, to make
zipping clothing easier.