Matthew Ezerioha, MD

Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) in 2016 from Medical University of South Carolina, Expert Medical Consultant & Entrepreneur

Oct 7, 2018 4 min read

JRA Prognosis: Is Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis Curable?

In many cases, children diagnosed with RA, specifically juvenile rheumatoid arthritis can overcome their symptoms. With today’s medical treatment capabilities, many conditions are adequately treated and children can go on to live symptom-free lives well into adulthood. The disease course or prognosis of every disease is determined from results physicians have observed while treating patients over many years.

child's hands

In the case of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, the prognosis is typically good, provided that proper treatment measures are followed.

What to Expect

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic medical condition that if left untreated slowly worsens over time. However, many children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis can see a full recovery with early diagnosis and treatment. This means that their symptoms can be virtually eliminated, disease progression slowed to the point that they may never experience severe symptoms in adulthood.

Naturally, progression of the disease is different for each patient. The juvenile rheumatoid arthritis prognosis can depend on when symptoms were first detected, when a diagnosis was made, and how soon treatment was started.

In some cases, joint damage occurs or bone growth is stunted at a young age. This can cause permanent damage and lead to other long-term complications.

Here are some of the potential outcomes of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis:

  • With treatment, symptoms improve and range of motion along with mobility become better
  • Long periods of remission when no symptoms occur at all are possible
  • Symptoms may disappear completely in childhood and not return during adulthood
  • Symptoms may continue into adulthood and will need to be continuously reassessed

Early Detection and Diagnosis

The earlier a diagnosis is reached, the sooner treatment can be implemented. The ability to detect symptoms and reach a diagnosis can drastically influence the juvenile rheumatoid arthritis prognosis.

Early treatment can eliminate some of the factors that lead to disease progression, such as uncontrolled inflammation and joint deterioration.

Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis Prognosis  Factors

The progression of this chronic disease depends on a number of factors, making it difficult to determine a specific disease course.  Some of the factors that contribute juvenile RA prognosis include:

  • Number of joints affected and whether symptoms are centralized or appear in multiple areas
  • The extent of damage done to the joint bone and cartilage
  • How aggressive the inflammation symptoms are in certain joints
  • Types of treatments implemented and whether this includes occupational and physical therapy

The prognosis can change over time given the evolving nature of the disease. Some children with RA may respond to treatment immediately, while others may experience symptoms that appear sporadically and with no real pattern.

Complications

There are certain complications to be aware of if your child has been diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Being aware of these possible complications can help you and your child better manage the disease.

Eye Inflammation

There are certain eye conditions associated with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. These include iritis and uveitis, which cause irritation and inflammation to the eye. The specific complication may depend on the subtype of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis your child has been diagnosed with. Routine and regular eye tests should be conducted to monitor your child’s eye health.

Jaw Pain and Deformity

Symptoms may affect jaw bone growth which can lead to oral health complications. Jaw pain and stiffness may become a problem, and in severe cases, surgery may be required to restore jaw function.

Blood Circulation

Sometimes symptoms can affect arteries in the hands and feet, causing them to be inflamed. This can lead to lowered blood circulation.

Anemia

Anemia or low iron count in the blood may be another complication of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

Continued Treatment

With continued treatment the juvenile rheumatoid arthritis prognosis for patients is good. The treatment options must be tailored to each individual patient’s situation as no two cases are exactly the same.

Physical Activity

Continued physical activity is important, as regular exercise helps to increase joint function and improve range of motion, flexibility and mobility. Physical activity also helps children improve their psychological state while managing the chronic symptoms of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

Some of the recommended exercises include swimming, walking, and cycling. Certain exercises may be more appropriate when flare-ups occur. Make sure to schedule an appointment with your physician if you are experiencing a flare-up.

Emotional Support

Over time, many children face feelings of anger or sadness in their struggle with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. It’s important to look for these signs and provide the necessary emotional support to help them restore their quality of life.

It may be necessary to pursue counseling and psychological services to ensure that your child feels supported.

Medication

There are medications available that control the progression of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and can lead to a positive outlook. These are the same medications prescribed to adults and known as disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). Your physician will be able to determine if these drugs are necessary to control swelling and prevent damage.

Surgery

Occasionally, doctors will recommend surgery for children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. These are usually severe cases where bone damage is extensive. Joint replacement surgery is an option and it can reduce potential complications the patient may experience in adulthood.

Regular Follow-Up

Ensure that you and your child work closely with your team of physicians to monitor symptoms and assess the stages of progression. The appropriate treatment options may change over time as well so it is important to stay informed about your child’s symptoms.

Many children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis go on to lead completely normal lives. Children are able to continue with their schoolwork, social events, as well as physical activities.

Transition of Care

If symptoms continue to persist past the age of 17 or 18 years old, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis patients can be transitioned from pediatric care to adult care. The goal is to ensure continued treatment and care without interruption. Your team of physicians will help prepare you and your child for this transition when the timing is appropriate to ensure smooth transfer of care to appropriate specialists in your area.