The paper examines the impact of juvenile arthritis (JA) on the lives of people affected by it. The term “juvenile arthritis” includes a number of diseases that affect joint tissues and reveal themselves in childhood or adolescence. The disease limits one’s motor skills and has a significant toll on one’s body and mind. It causes high pain on many occasions, preventing a child from partaking in physical activities that are regular for their age. Those affected by this disease have to face constant fatigue, troubles with growth and bone development, and lose autonomy which is essential at that life period. Moreover, a child with JA faces rejection by peers due to the said limitations that causes depression and anxiety.
Although the effects of JA may dissipate in time, it is vital to focus on its inhibition. However, such a process puts additional limitations on an already severely crippled individual. Treatments often include drugs that weaken one’s immune system, cause headaches, nausea, and other side effects. Moreover, the paper reveals how many symptoms may remain unreported due to the stigma related to this disease. JA has a profound detrimental effect on children, negating many opportunities in their lives and causing constant pain. The current treatment options are helpful, yet a child needs a lot of support from their parents to successfully go through it. Guidance through this process may be challenging, but research shows that it is highly efficient if conducted in accordance with common practices.
Juvenile arthritis (JA) is a chronic disease that poses a significant threat to young generations of many countries. There are approximately 300,000 children in the United States affected by this disease (“Juvenile arthritis,” 2018). This disease leaves a noticeable impact on one’s life, making it difficult to raise a child with JA and avoid all complications further on. Even after proper rheumatic care, there are many aspects, both physical, mental, and social, that may remain irreversibly damaged by this form of arthritis. This research paper will discuss juvenile arthritis and how its symptoms and treatment affect people’s lives.
General Information About Juvenile Arthritis
It is essential to examine the background information of JA to understand its effects and its treatment. The term “juvenile arthritis” describes a set of chronic rheumatic and inflammatory diseases that affect children under the age of 18 (“Juvenile arthritis,” 2018). It is established that the cause of this disease lies in both genes and environmental factors that a child is subjected to (“Juvenile arthritis,” 2018). There are several types of JA, with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) being the most common (“Juvenile arthritis (JA),” n.d.). Despite differences in symptoms, they all require extensive measures against the harm they bring to youth.
A child with JA may suddenly begin to experience aches in joints that are not linked with any physical trauma. Any joint inflammation of a period of 6 weeks or longer may indicate the presence of JA (“Juvenile arthritis,” 2018). Treatment is necessary for the eventual elimination of JA effects, which can remain present for years into one’s adulthood otherwise (“Juvenile arthritis,” 2018). This disease significantly impairs one’s life, making it essential to analyze the effects of JA and how to eliminate them without harming a patient. There are two different pools of adverse effects from JA. The first set is a physical representation of a disease, such as fatigue and pain (Lundberg & Eriksson, 2017). The second set of problems relates to the presence of chronic disease at a young age. It consists of social and mental issues that stem from a patient’s insecurities and limitations and society’s perceptions of them (Lundberg & Eriksson, 2017). The daily lives of these patients are considerably changed due to JA.
Effects on Physical Well-being
Any arthritis is detrimental to a person’s physical capabilities and fills their life with pain. However, JA also causes prolonged adverse effects by slowing down one’s muscle growth and bone development (“Juvenile arthritis,” 2018). In the most severe cases, a patient’s joints may become deformed and require corrective surgical interventions (“Juvenile arthritis,” 2018). The potential loss of mobility and growing autonomy are some of the most troublesome prospects for a patient with JA (Fair et al., 2019). These effects change the life of a person entirely, often making them dependent on constant support and care.
Some symptoms of JA can interrupt the usual activities of a child on a regular basis. Pain is a primary symptom of JA, which often occurs daily and can be severe to the point of preventing a child from being able to do anything but rest (Rashid et al., 2017). It is known that longer disease duration and its earlier onset are related to less severe pain (Rashid et al., 2017). Control and treatment of the symptoms are vital for the prevention of long-term damage, although they may reveal additional obstacles in elimination (Chédeville et al., 2021). In some cases, involuntary contractures of joints may lead to the application of splints during sleep (“Juvenile arthritis,” 2018). A life with this disease requires many adjustments in one’s daily schedule.
However, merely growing up does not resolve the physical impediments from JA. Without aggressive treatment, many patients with JA report a reduced quality of life due to pain, fatigue, and the presence of physical disabilities resulted from it (Tollisen et al., 2018). While there are cases when symptoms of JA disappear without interventions, 37-63% of patients with JIA continue to experience them in adulthood (Tollisen et al., 2018). It is vital for a patient to receive proper care to become a healthy adult.
Effects on Mental Health
While there are many physical aspects touched by JA, it has a most profound adverse effect on a child’s mental health. Social contacts of underage patients with JA are often heavily impeded by their physical limits (Fair et al., 2019). These handicaps can lead to bullying, emotional traumas, anxiety and severe forms of depression. Many studies that review the effects of JA report that 7-36% of all patients experience depressive symptoms, and 7-64% have issues with anxiety (Fair et al., 2019). Moreover, some treatment methods of JA can result in mood swings, anxiety, attention issues, and depression (Chédeville et al., 2021). Therefore, the impact of JA on one’s mental health can be more damaging in the long term than its physical aspects.
It is vital to assist patients with this disease with establishing connections with peers and coping with high stress. Without extensive treatment, children with JA are unable to participate in many activities that are regular for their age. Functional disabilities in the early years often lead to mental health issues which will get worse if left unmanaged (Lundberg & Eriksson, 2017). Rashid et al. (2017) argue that adolescents with JA experience more mental stress from an inability to conform to “peer-group expectations, increasing independence, and burgeoning identity” (p. 440). There is a distinct lack of social inclusion for people with severe cases of JA, which adds its toll to other issues stemming from this disease. Parents and pediatricians may recommend discussing these issues with a psychologist.
Without stable support, children may become withdrawn from society and refuse further attempts of communication with healthy peers. It might become difficult for a child to speak about their health issues due to the social stigma regarding their limitations and experiences related to JA (Fair et al., 2019). In such cases, the stigma from JA must be thoroughly discussed with a professional to establish what appropriate measures, such as school transfer, must be taken. This notion can make the treatment process more complicated and less appropriate, as some symptoms may remain unreported. It is up to parents to ensure that there are no gaps in communication with their children, although it might be troublesome in some cases.
Treatments and Their Side Effects
There are several medications, treatment plans, and procedures that may help youth with overcoming this disease. JA cannot be cured, yet its symptoms can be eliminated entirely (“Juvenile arthritis (JA),” n.d.). While there are surgical operations that may improve a patient’s condition, they are necessary only in the most severe cases (“Juvenile arthritis,” 2018). Corticosteroids also help with the reduction of JA symptoms by inhibiting the attacks of an autoimmune system on otherwise healthy tissues (“Juvenile arthritis,” 2018). However, they pose an additional threat to a child’s health due to a weakened immune system. Other treatments may cause nausea, dizziness, and vomit, making it necessary for parents to keep a child close (“Juvenile arthritis,” 2018). Any form of treatment will limit a patient’s ability to uphold a regular schedule, yet it is crucial to convince them to accept such a regime temporarily with a promise of future relief.
Another major factor in the daily life of a child with a JA is physical strain. It is essential for children with JA to exercise in order to keep muscles from growing stiff and prevent losing strength (“Juvenile arthritis,” 2018). Pain from JA may interfere with any physical activities, making it crucial for a pediatrician and a child’s parents to establish a routine that will help avoid any unnecessary strains (“Juvenile arthritis,” 2018). However, any physical training remains important for proper muscle growth (“Juvenile arthritis,” 2018). This dilemma may lead to conflicts between a patient and their parents and doctors, yet it remains a crucial task on the way to symptom reduction.
There is also a number of parent-reported side effects related to JA medications. Approximately 66% of all JA patients experience side effects from assigned medications annually (Chédeville et al., 2021). The occurrence of specific conditions and their correlation with physician-acquired data also vary. Statistics from 884 visits that are provided by Chédeville et al. (2021) reveal that “The most frequent SE were gastrointestinal (GI) (32.5% of 884 visits) and behavioral/psychiatric symptoms (22.4% of 884 visits)” (p. 9). Most of these outcomes were deemed too mild to be reported correctly, leaving them out of the physicians’ view (Chédeville et al., 2021). However, they have an adverse effect on a child’s life and must be incorporated in the official guidelines for parents and doctors.
In conclusion, this disease is a significant impediment to the ordinary lives of many children across the globe. It prevents kids from participating in many physical activities and harms their relationships with peers. These issues can lead to severe mental disorders later in life. Moreover, medication and surgical interventions that aim to reduce JA symptoms serve as a major source of distress for both children affected by it and their parents. Parents and pediatricians must also consider the stigma related to physical disabilities and develop a way for a child to cope with emotional stress.
However, it is possible to avoid these adverse outcomes through efficient treatment and adherence to the necessary regime. The study by Listing et al. (2018) reveals that JA patients can reach the quality of life of their healthy peers “over 3 years of rheumatologic care” (p. 6). Through adherence to all guidelines and doctors’ orders, parents can help their children with achieving the level of independence and activity of a regular kid.
Due to the nature of this disease, a child may have issues with reporting any of its symptoms. A parent must remain vigilant when encountering any of its symptoms and do not hesitate to visit a pediatrician. With case-specific adjustments in one’s daily schedule and timely symptom reliefs, it is possible to restore a child’s life to its regular flow and avoid any significant harm from JA’s symptoms.
Chédeville, G., McGuire, K., Cabral, D. A., Shiff, N. J., Rumsey, D. G., Proulx-Gauthier, J., Schmeling, H., Berard, R. A., Batthish, M., Soon, G., Gerhold, K., Gerschman, T., Bruns, A., Duffy, C. D., Tucker, L. B., & Guzman, J. (2021). Parent-reported medication side-effects and their impact on health-related quality of life in children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Arthritis Care & Research.
Fair, D. C., Rodriguez, M., Knight, A. M., & Rubinstein, T. B. (2019). Depression and anxiety in patients with juvenile idiopathic arthritis: Current insights and impact on quality of life, a systematic review. Open Access Rheumatology: Research and Reviews, 11, 237-252.
Juvenile arthritis (JA). (n.d.). Arthritis Foundation.
Juvenile arthritis. (2018). OrthoInfo – Patient Education | American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Listing, M., Mönkemöller, K., Liedmann, I., Niewerth, M., Sengler, C., Listing, J., Foell, D., Heiligenhaus, A., Klein, A., Horneff, G., Ganser, G., Haas, J., Klotsche, J., & Minden, K. (2018). The majority of patients with newly diagnosed juvenile idiopathic arthritis achieve a health-related quality of life that is similar to that of healthy peers: Results of the German multicenter inception cohort (ICON). Arthritis Research & Therapy, 20(1).
Lundberg, V., & Eriksson, C. (2017). Health-related quality of life among Swedish children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis: Parent-child discrepancies, gender differences and comparison with a European cohort. Pediatric Rheumatology, 15(1).
Rashid, A., Cordingley, L., Carrasco, R., Foster, H. E., Baildam, E. M., Chieng, A., Davidson, J. E., Wedderburn, L. R., Ioannou, Y., McErlane, F., Verstappen, S. M., Hyrich, K. L., & Thomson, W. (2017). Patterns of pain over time among children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 103(5), 437-443.
Tollisen, A., Selvaag, A. M., Aulie, H. A., Lilleby, V., Aasland, A., Lerdal, A., & Flatø, B. (2018). Physical functioning, pain, and health-related quality of life in adults with juvenile idiopathic arthritis: A longitudinal 30-Year followup study. Arthritis Care & Research, 70(5), 741-749.