Rhematoid arthritis is problematic whenever it strikes, but it seems downright cruel that it could affect children. Juvenile arthritis is very real, however, and this includes rheumatoid arthritis. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis [JRA] is, in fact, the most common form of arthritis that occurs in children under the age of 16 today.
In order to be diagnosed with JRA, a child must have at least 6 weeks of persistent arthritis without any other form of arthritis present. What makes tracking this issue difficult is the fact that there has never been a national study conducted on the incidence rates of JRA or other forms of juvenile arthritis. Only short-term regional studies have been conducted and this must be taken into consideration when examining the following JRA statistics.
Facts on Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
1. The estimate prevalence of JRA in US children is up to 15 per 100,000 based on short-term studies that were conducted from 1975-1996.
2. The number of new cases of JRA that are estimated to be diagnosed each year: up to 11,000.
3. In a 2007 CDC study, there were an estimated 294,000 children who were diagnosed with some form of arthritis. 16,000 of those were classified as having JRA.
4. JRA has three distinct subtypes: systemic (10%), polyarticular (40%) and pauciarticular (50%).
5. 45%. That’s the percentage of children who still have active arthritis after 10 years.
6. For the systemic type, the peak age of onset is 1-6 year olds and about 50% of these children show very short stature in adulthood as a result.
7. Girls may be up to 5x more likely to be diagnosed with JRA when compared to boys.
8. An estimated 80,100 children are treated for some form of arthritis pain every year in the United States.
9. About 1 child out of 1 million will suffer a fatal incident because of the development of JRA. From 1979 to 1998, fewer than 1,000 children were known to have died because of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
10. In 1997, the last year this statistic was studied, 21,000 hospitalizations occurred because of an arthritis related condition in children.
11. Pediatric arthritis-related visits are more likely to be made by girls (67%), Caucasians (82%), non-Hispanics (66%) and children aged 12–17 years (59%).
12. JRA accounts for 1 in every 10 visits to a pediatrician for an arthritis-related incident.
13. The economic impacts of JRA appear substantial with national direct costs in 1989 was estimated to be $285 million.
What Is the Impact of JRA?
We typically think of arthritis as something that affects the joints and can cause a loss of motion, but juvenile rheumatoid arthritis can do more than that. In some cases, it may even affect a child’s internal organs. It may affect any joint and is known to also affect the growth patterns of a child when present. If you see a child who wakes up and is limping on a frequent basis, but gets better throughout the day, then JRA may be present.
Some children have symptoms that will come and go. It is not unusual for a child to have a couple flare-ups of JRA and then never experience an issue ever again. For some unlucky children, they’ll have symptoms that never go away.
What Causes Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis?
JRA is caused by an auto-immune disorder that causes the child’s body to attack itself. This causes inflammation to occur, especially around the joints, and will ultimately damage healthy tissues. It may also have genetic factors that contribute to its development. Environmental factors, such as the introduction of a virus, may also trigger JRA.
It can be difficult to diagnose juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. There is no one single test a physician can administer to confirm a diagnosis. A history of symptoms, the inclusion of skin rashes and unexplained swelling, plus tests that rule out other condition will lead a doctor to a diagnosis of JRA.
It is extremely rare for more than one individual in any family to be diagnosed with this condition. When it does occur, treatment generally takes a team approach to reduce the effects of the autoimmune disorder while providing individualized therapies and lifestyle changes that can reduce pain.
JRA might not be common, but it is far from rare. By recognizing the signs and symptoms through statistics and facts like these, children will be able to get the help they need sooner rather than later.