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There are many ways you can help children and their families get the care they need.
At Boston Children's, we know how difficult a diagnosis of juvenile idiopathic arthritis can be, both for your child and for your whole family. That's why our physicians are focused on family-centered care: From your first visit, you'll work with a team of professionals who are committed to supporting all of your family's physical and psychosocial needs. We'll work with you to create a care plan that's best for your child.
Children with different types of juvenile idiopathic arthritis have different symptoms, and these vary from one child to another. But no matter what type of JIA your child has, the overriding goal is the same: to extinguish the “fire” of inflammation as rapidly as possible to give your child's joints and bones the possible best chance to develop normally.
Medical treatment for JIA often starts with drugs called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which help relieve symptoms such as pain, swelling and stiffness. Among the most common NSAIDs are ibuprofen and naproxen, in therapeutic doses (that is, higher than the over-the-counter versions). For children with mild arthritis, this may be the only medicine they need. But if your child has more severe arthritis, her doctor may recommend one or more of the following:
Though essential, medication will probably be just one part of your child's treatment program. Other therapies help increase her mobility and strength, and protect her overall health. These may include:
Very few children with JIA will ever need surgery. If a joint becomes too damaged and painful, doctors may recommend repairing it or replacing it with an artificial one (though joint replacement surgery usually isn't done until adulthood, because a child's body is still growing). Another option is to surgically remove the inflamed lining of the joint -- a procedure called synovectomy -- but again, this is quite rare.
When your child is facing a chronic illness, like JIA, it's understandable that you may want to explore all the treatment options, even those that aren't part of conventional medicine. Such treatments -- generally known as alternative or complementary medicine -- encompass such things as acupuncture and special diets or dietary supplements, and some people with arthritis do seem to benefit from them.
However, there's little research showing how effective or safe most of these treatments are, and no evidence that any are as effective in fighting JIA as the drugs your child's doctor may prescribe. If you're interested in exploring an alternative treatment for JIA, be sure to talk it over with your child's doctor first and -- if he agrees the treatment may have value and is not harmful -- always keep him up to date on how it's coming along.
If your child's treatment plan includes occupational therapy, she will learn more about everyday ways to protect her joints, minimize pain, conserve energy and exercise. The occupational therapist will be the best source of advice on things you and your child can do at home to make living with juvenile idiopathic arthritis easier, including:
Coping and support
We understand that you may have a lot of questions when your child is diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Will it affect my child long term? What do we do next? We've tried to provide some answers to those questions in these pages, but there are also a number of other resources to help you and your family through this difficult time.
Patient education: From the very first visit, our nurses will be on hand to walk you through your child's treatment and help answer any questions you may have. And they'll also reach out to you by phone, continuing the care and support you received while at Children's.
Parent to parent: Want to talk with someone whose child has had juvenile idiopathic arthritis? We may be able to put you in touch with other families who have been through similar experiences and can share their experience.
Faith-based support: If you are in need of spiritual support, we'll help connect you with the Children's chaplaincy. Our program includes nearly a dozen clergy representing Episcopal, Jewish, Lutheran, Muslim, Roman Catholic, Unitarian and United Church of Christ traditions who will listen to you, pray with you and help you observe your own faith practices.
Social work and mental health professionals: Our social workers act as a sort of “hub” for support services: connecting you and your child with everything from financial assistance to mental health counseling. They will work one-on-one with you on such issues as:
And just as important, you can talk with our social workers about the impact of JIA on you, your child and your whole family.
Help with transitioning to adult care: If your child's JIA continues into early adulthood, she'll likely face the daunting prospect of leaving the pediatric setting and changing over to a health care team that handles adult patients' needs. The Center for Adults with Pediatric Rheumatic Illness is a collaborative effort between Children's and the Brigham and Women's Hospital, in which specialists from both hospitals work to ease the transition to adult care.
Support groups can be especially important for children with JIA, and Arthritis Foundation can help you find one in your area. In addition, the foundation -- which is the largest private, not-for-profit contributor to arthritis research in the world -- offers spring and summer camp programs that give kids with arthritis the chance to meet and play with others who share their experience.
On our For Patients and Families site, you can read all you need to know about:
Why are my friendships changing? How can I convince my parents that being a vegetarian is heathy and right for me? What types of birth control are available to me, and how do I use them? Young men and young women may have some concerns specific to their gender, and some that they share. At Children's, the Center for Young Women's Health and Center for Young Men's Health offer the latest general and gender-specific information about issues including fitness and nutrition, sexuality and health, health and development and emotional health.
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”