Travel for Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), previously called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is the most common arthritis type in children. It is called idiopathic because it has no known origin. This disease is not contagious. It refers to the inflammation of joints (warm, swollen, and painful). In the United States, about 300,000 children suffer from some type of arthritis. Arthritis can manifest in short-term basis (last a few weeks or months and disappears forever) or can be chronic (last for months or years). In approximately 50 percent of the cases, it can be a lifetime condition.

There are many hospitals in the United States that offer treatments for Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. However, travel is needed to access these facilities. It is worth noting that insurance service providers cover medical expenses but not travel. Patients therefore need to make their own travel arrangements properly so that the cost of travel remains at the minimum.

If you have already identified the health center for your Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis treatment, consultation or second opinion, you can go ahead and plan your travel. Otherwise, you can check our list of hospitals in the US that provide specialized treatments for JIA. In case you are unable to meet your travel costs, you can check our directory of charitable organizations that help in the arrangement of cost-free travel for medical purposes.

About Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

The causes of JIA in children are unknown. Medical research shows that this is an autoimmune disease. In autoimmune conditions, the white blood cells do not differentiate between health cells in the body and disease causing organisms such as bacteria and viruses. The immune system is meant to protect the body from these harmful organisms but releases chemicals that destroy healthy tissues causing pain and inflammation.

There are six types of juvenile idiopathic arthritis. These are;

  • Enthesitis-related JIA. This is portrayed by softness where the bone meets a ligament, tendon, or other connective tissue. This softness, (known as enthesitis), come with the joint inflammation of arthritis. The common parts affected include the hips, knees and feet. This type of arthritis may also cause inflammation in other parts of the body apart from the joints.
  • Juvenile Psoriatic Arthritis. This type of JIA involves arthritis occurring together with psoriasis (a type of skin condition). The psoriasis may start many years before any joint symptoms manifests. These symptoms include swelling and pain in one or more joints, usually the wrists, ankles, knees, toes and fingers.
  • Oligoarticular JIA. This type causes arthritis in at most four joints, usually the large ones (ankles, knees, elbows). Babies with oligoarthritis are more likely to develop uveitis (chronic inflammation of the eyes) than those with the other JIA subtypes.
  • Polyarticular JIA. This causes inflammation in five or more joints, usually the small joints of the fingers and hands. However, this type can affect weight-bearing joints and the jaw. Polyarthritis can be positive or negative in terms of rheumatoid factor.
  • Systemic JIA. This causes inflammation in one or more joints and is usually accompanied by high spiking fever (103°F or higher) that lasts at least 14 days and a kind of skin rash. Other signs may include inflammation of the heart or lungs or their outer linings, enlarged lymph nodes, liver or spleen and anemia.
  • Undifferentiated Arthritis. This refers to arthritis that does not belong to any of the above categories or fits into more than one of them.

Symptoms of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

There are quite a number of symptoms in children suffering from JIA. However, it is not a must that a child must have all the following symptoms of JIA;

  • Decreased physical activity
  • Fatigue
  • Favoring one limb over another or limping
  • Fever
  • Inability to bend or straighten joints completely
  • Joints that are warm to the touch
  • Pain (often worse following sleep or inactivity)
  • Rash
  • Sleep problems
  • Stiffness, especially upon waking in the morning
  • Swelling and tenderness at joints

Different children suffering from JIA may have different symptoms. Some of the above symptoms are particularly associated with specific subtypes of JIA. The symptoms can differ markedly from day to another or during the same day.

Where to Go for Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis Treatment

There are many hospitals in the United States where patients can seek medical treatments for juvenile idiopathic arthritis. These facilities are equipped with the necessary equipments, technologies, staff and medications that help them offer the best healthcare services to patients. Among the best of these hospitals include the following;

  • Alaska Native Medical Center

The hospital has assembled a unique and interdisciplinary team of professionals to offer the best treatment options for children suffering from Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis. The center also has a camp program for youth patients and their parents that combine community building, health, education and fun.

Treatment of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

Early diagnosis of this condition is important in preventing or slowing damage of the joints while maintaining their functions and movements. If the condition is suspected, the following steps should be taken;

  • Medical history (how long the condition has existed)
  • Physical examination (to check swelling and range of motion)
  • Lab tests (ESR,ANA, anti-CPP, RF, HLA-B typing, CBC etc)
  • Imaging (X-rays, CT scan, MRI, ultrasound)
  • Synovium analysis

A combination of medications, exercises and physical therapy is usually used in the treatment of JIA. In some instances, the baby may need injections of corticosteroid into the joints. Surgery may be needed in very rare instances in children and teens. The rheumatologists, physicians and physical therapists will work in unison to come up with the most suitable treatment option for particular individuals.

These treatment options are applied in order to ease inflammation and pain, prevent or slow down joint damage, restore normal joint functions and enhance normal growth, social, physical and emotional development. There is no cure for JIA, the treatment options are geared towards improving quality of life.


Medications are used to hit the condition fast and hard to prevent further damages. The most common of medications used for JIA include the following;

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Methotrexate

Physical Therapy

For management of any type of arthritis, a suitable physical therapy program is needed. A range of motion exercises may be prescribed in order to restore the child’s joint’s flexibility. Other exercises may be needed to enhance strength and endurance.

Regular Exercises

It is common for the child to remain still when pain strikes. But it is vital to maintain a regular program of exercise. This is in order to keep the muscles strong so that they can hence protect and support joints. Safe exercises include swimming, walking and riding bicycles.

Risks Associated with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

There are several risk factors that are associated with juvenile idiopathic arthritis. These may include the following;

  • Age under 6 years
  • Antibiotic exposure in childhood
  • Family history of autoimmunity
  • Female gender
  • HLA polymorphism

Who Can Go for Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

Regular and routine medical checkup for children as well as adults is essential in promoting good health. However, those suffering from or showing signs and symptoms of juvenile idiopathic arthritis should go for diagnosis and treatment of the disease. Children that are predisposed to factors associated with JIA should see the doctor for diagnosis and possible treatment. These include children under six years, those with family history of the disease among others as indicated above.