Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis Overview
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is a type of arthritis that occurs in children aged 16 years old and younger. This condition is generally characterized by swelling and stiffness of the joints for more than a month and a half. Management of JRA involves the right diet, occupational therapy, ideal weight maintenance and use of medications. Some of the common symptoms of JRA include swollen and painful joints particularly after sleeping, high fever, inflammation of the eye, swelling of the lymph nodes, and fatigue.
Occupational Therapy in JRA
As a treatment option, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis occupational therapy aims to lessen the pain on the joints as well as to improve their strength and motion range, thus allowing affected children to continue doing their normal activities. Through occupational therapy, children with JRA are trained to be physically independent and mobile despite their condition. Occupational therapists often help in designing the appropriate program to address the specific needs of a child with JRA. They also usually work hand in hand with pediatric rheumatologists, physical therapists and social workers who have experience in dealing with children suffering from arthritis.
Occupational therapy includes physical conditioning activities such as aerobic exercises, strength exercises, stretching, and range of motion exercises. Exercises not only help in promoting independence among children with JRA but also in decreasing the pain on the joints. Exercise is also vital in the improvement of blood flow, maintenance of weight and promotion of physical fitness. One of the more common exercises for children with JRA is swimming in a pool with warm water.
Splinting may also be done at night to prevent pain and stiffness on the hands, wrists, knee, and ankle joints. Splints can also relieve pain and allow children to perform simple tasks like dialing a phone, writing and carrying objects.
The use of assistive devices are also tapped in the management of patients with JRA. For instance, using shoe lifts frequently helps in children whose other leg is longer than the other one. Likewise, using jar grippers, braces and canes can often help in lessening stress on the knee joints.
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis occupational therapy may also involve serial casting of the affected joints such as the knees, wrists, ankles, elbows and fingers. After the cast has been removed, the child usually goes through physical therapy, and then, re-application of the cast.
Rest is another important aspect of JRA treatment as arthritis can frequently cause fatigue and weakness of the muscles and joints.
Importance of Early Diagnosis and Management
Children showing signs and symptoms of JRA who are then sent for consultation are often diagnosed early. Most of these children, after being diagnosed with the said disease, are then given directions on proper treatment and management, thus they suffer from the symptoms of the disease less. They are usually given medications to stop the swelling and pain, and are started on occupational therapy to gain independence.