Treatment for juvenile arthritis includes both medications and nondrug approaches (such as physiotherapy, exercises, heat and cold treatments). The treatment plan is based on the signs and symptoms; severity of the disease and type of juvenile arthritis, like a child with polyarticular juvenile arthritis with positive rheumatoid factor test is more likely to progress to joint damage and may need more aggressive treatment. Read to know more on treatment for juvenile arthritis.
There is no cure at present for juvenile arthritis and the aims of treatment for juvenile arthritis are;
- to relieve pain and swelling
- to increase joint mobility and strength
- to prevent joint damage and complications.
Medications for juvenile arthritis: The aim of medicationsis to reduce inflammation, pain and induce remission. The drugs prescribed for juvenile arthritis include nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), narcotic analgesics, glucocorticoids, and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs).
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): These drugs are most often prescribed to treat pain and swelling. The commonly prescribed NSAIDs include products such as ibuprofen, diclofenac and naproxen. The NSAIDs do not modify or slow joint damage. These drugs can cause several adverse such as stomach upset, stomach pain, and bleeding and hence should be taken with food. Aspirin is also a NSAID, but is generally not prescribed for treating arthritis in children.
- Slow-acting anti-inflammatory drugs (SAARDs): These drugs are also known as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). They can help to modify or slow joint damage and hence are often prescribed along with NSAIDs. These medications are slow to act and reduce pain, swelling and disease activity slowly over several weeks. Tests are done often to check for possible side effects of these drugs. Some of the DMARDs used for treatment of juvenile arthritis include methotrexate, hydroxychloroquine, sulfasalazine (Azulfidine), and drugs that block tumor necrosis factor (TNF), also called anti-TNF drugs such as etanercept. Methotrexate is the most commonly prescribed DMARDs.
- Corticosteroids:They are potent anti-inflammatory drugs and effectively reduce pain, swelling and other symptoms. They may stop or slow joint damage but prolonged use of steroids can cause several side effects like poor growth, weight gain, thinning of skin, and osteoporosis---- hence they are generally avoided in children.
If your child has joint pain or any other symptom suggestive of bone or joint disease consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.Early and appropriate treatment can improve the symptoms of arthritis,help the child grow as independent and capable of leading a normal life as possible, limit disability and maintain a good quality of life.