Get a handle on all the new – and often confusing – medical terms that come along with JA.
Acute: Having a short and relatively severe course.
Anaphylaxis: Extreme sensitivity to certain medications or other substances, often resulting in shock and life-threatening respiratory distress; allergic shock.
Anemia: A condition in which the red blood cell count is too low.
Anesthesiologist: A medical doctor who uses drugs (anesthesia) to make certain a person is asleep and cannot feel pain during surgery.
Anesthetist: A nurse who administers anesthesia during surgery.
Ankylosing spondylitis: A type of arthritis involving inflammation in the spine that can cause the joints to fuse, or grow together. In children, the disease generally causes arthritis in the large joints of the lower extremities, such as the hips knees and ankles. Areas where the tendons attach to bones, such as the heel bone, can become very tender as well.
Anterior: Situated in front of or in the forward part of an organ.
Antinuclear antibody (ANA) test: A blood test to determine whether certain antibodies that indicate an autoimmune illness are present. In children with some types of juvenile arthritis, the test can provide some indication of the long-term risk of developing eye inflammation, called uveitis.
Arthralgia: Pain in a joint.
Arthritis: Literally means joint inflammation (arth = joint, itis = inflammation). It generally means inflammation of a joint from any cause, such as infection, trauma or an autoimmune disorder. Term encompasses more than 100 diseases and conditions.
Arthroscopic surgery: Surgery done inside a joint, using a thin tube with a light at the end, which is inserted through a small incision. This type of surgery is best for minor repairs, such as removing torn or loose cartilage.
Autoimmune disorder: A malfunction of the body’s immune system in which the body appears to attack and damage its own tissues. There are many types of autoimmune disorders or diseases, including arthritis and related conditions.
Biologics: These medications help control disease by changing the way the immune system works. They are developed using special technology from living cells, some that occur naturally and others that are created in a lab. They are most commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. They are also known as biologic response modifiers or biologic agents.
Chemistries: Your child may have other tests to check liver function, kidney function and other potential sources of their symptoms.
Chronic: Long-lasting or persistent.
Clinical trial: A study in which medications are tested in patients to measure their effectiveness and safety. This is one of the final steps in the federal Food and Drug Administration’s process for approving drugs.
Clinician: General term for a doctor, nurse or other member of your child’s health-care team that sees a patients in a clinic doctors office or hospital, as opposed to a health-care professional who primarily focuses on research.
CBC, or complete blood count: This test checks the red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Anemia, or a low red blood cell count, can occur with iron deficiency, or with chronic inflammation and can contribute to fatigue.
Corticosteroids: A group of powerful medications related to the natural hormones cortisone and hydrocortisone. These potent drugs quickly reduce pain and inflammation bur carry a risk of serious side effects when used in high doses. Sometimes referred to as steroids glucocorticoids, they are not the same as anabolic steroid drugs that some athletes abuse.
Cushing’s syndrome: A possible side effect of taking corticosteroid medications; symptoms include weight gain, moonface, thin skin, muscle weakness and brittle bones.
DNA: Short for deoxyribonucleic acid, DNAis the building block of life. DNA holds the genetic plans for how your body grows, changes and ages. By examining it, scientist are also learning ways in which they can use DNA to predict the likelihood of you developing a disease and better ways to treat disease.
Dietitian: A specialist in nutrition
Discoid rash: A type rash that affects some people with lupus
Disease: An adverse change in health. Some physicians use this term only for conditions in which a structural or functional change in tissues or organs has been identified.
Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs): Medications used to slow or perhaps halt the progression of disease. DMARDs are used primarily to treat rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis, but may also be prescribed for other inflammatory diseases such as lupus, ankylosing spondylitis and Sjogren’s syndrome.
Distal: Farthest from a particular point of reference.
Electromyogram (EMG): Atest that measures electrical activity in the muscles. This procedure is used in the diagnosis of muscle and nerve disorders.
Erythema: Inflammatory redness of the skin.
Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (or sed rate): A blood test that measures how quickly red blood cells cling together, fall and settle toward the bottom of a glass tube. When inflammation responds to medication, the sed rate usually goes down.
ESR(erythrocyte sedimentation rate), or “sed rate”: This test provides an indication of inflammation in the body, although by no means conclusive. Someone with a normal sed rate can still have arthritis. On the converse, someone with a high sed rate may not appear to be seriously ill.
Fibromyalgia: A noninflammatory rheumatic condition affecting the body’s soft tissues. Characterized by muscle pain, fatigue and non-restorative sleep, fibromyalgia has no associated abnormal X-ray or laboratory findings. It is often associated with headaches and irritable bowel syndrome.
Flare: The term used to describe a period during which disease symptoms reappear or become worse.
Gastroenterologist: A physician who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases of the digestive tract.
Genetics: The study of inherited traits and how genes found in our DNA affect how we grow, develop and age. Discoveries made in the field of genetics have lead to some of the biggest advancements in treating arthritis.
HLA-B27 typing: A blood test to determine if the HLA-B27 gene is present. This gene is a genetic marker associated with an increased risk of developing arthritis that involves the spine, such as ankylosing spondylitis. Most children with this gene are healthy, but they are more likely than others to develop this arthritis. Your child can test negative and still have this arthritis diagnosed.
Immune response: Activation of the body’s immune system to defend itself against foreign substances, or antigens.
Immune system: Your body’s complex biochemical system for defending itself against bacteria, viruses, wounds and other injuries. Among the many components of the system are a variety of cells (such as T cells), organs (such as the lymph glands) and chemicals (such as histamine and prostaglandins).
Inflammation: A reaction to injury or infection resulting in redness, pain, swelling and stiffness in the affected areas.
Internist: A physician who specializes in internal medicine: Sometimes called a primary care physician.
Iridocyclitis (iritis, uveitis): A serious eye inflammation that is difficult to detect. Permanent eye damage can be avoided by having regular eye exams by an ophthalmologist. The term an eye doctor uses to refer to the condition depends on which part of the eye is affected.
Joint replacement surgery: Surgery in which diseased joints are replaced with man-made joints. This procedure is used mainly in older children and adults whose growth is complete and whose joints are badly damaged by arthritis.
Dermatomyositis: An inflammatory disease that causes a skin rash and muscle weakness. Approximately 20 percent of children with JDMS have arthritis. JDMS is more common in girls and occurs most often in children between the ages of 5 and 14.
Juvenile: Often used before another term to indicate it affects children. For example, juvenile lupus, juvenile diabetes.
Juvenile arthritis (JA): A general term used to describe the more than 100 rheumatic diseases and conditions that can affect children. Think of it as the term to describe arthritis in kids. JA can cover many diseases including lupus, fibromyalgia and psoriatic arthritis. Not to be confused with JIA (see below).
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA): The preferred term used by researchers, and increasingly doctors, to describe chronic, inflammatory autoimmune disease in which the body’s protective immune system attacks its own tissues, particularly the joints, causing pain, swelling and deformity. JIA is the most common type of arthritis that affects children, and there are many forms of the condition. The three most common categories are:
Oligoarticular: Formerly known as pauciarticular, at diagnosis it affects four or fewer joints, usually the large joints such as knees, ankles or elbows. Approximately 40 percent of children with JIA have this form
Polyarthritis: Affects five or more joints, at diagnosis, usually affecting the same joint on both sides of the body. Affects girls more often than boys. Approximately 25 percent of children with JIA have this form.
Systemic: Affects both the joints and internal organs, and can begin with a very high fever, rash, swollen joints and pain. Other forms include Enthesitis-related and juvenile psoriatic arthritis, among others.
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA): An older term used to describe chronic, inflammatory autoimmune disease in which the body’s protective immune system attacks its own tissues, particularly the joints, causing pain, swelling and deformity. For more information see JIA(above).
Lyme disease: A inflammatory disorder characterized by a skin rash, followed in weeks or months by symptoms in the central nervous system, cardiovascular system and joints. It is caused by the bite of an infected deer tick. The disease is named after the Connecticut town where it was first discovered. It is now found across the United States.
Malar rash: A rash appearing on the cheeks: also called a “butterfly rash” because of its shape. It is sometimes a symptom of systemic lupus erythematosus or lupus.
Medical journal: A publication either on print or online where research results are published in the form of articles.
Mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD): A syndrome with a mixture of symptoms of systemic lupus erythematosus, polmyositis and other rheumatic diseases. MCTD is very rare in children.
Myofascial pain syndrome: A neuromuscular condition in which the tissue surrounding muscles tightens and loses elasticity, causing pain and loss of motion.
Myopathy: Any disease of a muscle.
Myositis: Inflammation of a muscle. This term is used to describe several different illnesses, including polymyositis, dermatomyositis and inclusion body myositis. These conditions involve chronic muscle inflammation, leading to muscle weakness.
Nephrologist: A physician who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of kidney problem.
Neurologist: A physician who specialized in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of nervous system disorders.
Non-acetylated salicylates: Medications that are similar to aspirin but have been chemically modified to be easier on the stomach and kidneys and are taken less frequently than regular aspirin.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NASIDs): Medications that relieve pain, fever and inflammation. These are often prescribed to treat arthritis inflammation and pain.
Occupational therapist: A health professional who teaches patients ways to reduce strain on joints while performing everyday activities. Occupational therapists also fit patients with splints and other devices to help reduce strain on joints.
Oncogenesis: Development of a new abnormal growth or tumor.
Ophthalmologist: A physician who specialized in the diagnosis and medical and surgical treatment of diseases and defects of the eye.
Orthopaedic surgeon: A surgeon who specializes in surgery of the musculoskeletal system, its joints and related structures.
Osteopenia: The term for bone mass that is lower than usual but does not require treatment with medication unless there are special risk factors.
Osteoporosis: A condition resulting in the thinning of bones and an increased susceptibility to fractures. Unfortunately, corticosteroids, sometimes used in treating children with arthritis, can increase the risk of osteoporosis when used in children in high doses for extended periods of time.
Pediatric rheumatologist: A physician who has special training in the care of children and adolescents with arthritis and related conditions.
Pediatrician: A physician who has special training in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of childhood and adolescent illnesses.
Peer review article: This refers to a type of research article that has been through the peer review process of having other doctors or health-care providers reading the article and helping approve it for publication before it is printed in a medical journal. Because of this extra layer of review these articles are viewed as being a reliable source for research information.
Photosensitivity: An abnormally heightened reaction to sunlight.
Physiatrist: A physician who specializes in the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation.
Physical therapist: A licensed health professional who is a specialist in the use of exercises to treat physical conditions.
Podiatrist: A health professional who specializes in the study and care of the foot, including medical and surgical treatment.
Polymyositis/dermatomyositis: Related rheumatic diseases that cause weakness and inflammation of muscles.
Primary Care Physician: A physician who specializes in internal medicine: Sometimes called an internist.
Proximal: Nearest; closest to any point of reference. The opposite of distal.
Psoriasis: A chronic skin disease characterized by scaly, reddish patches. Psoriasis also causes lifting of the nails and pitting, a condition in which the nails become marked with several small depressions.
Psoriatic arthritis: A type of arthritis that may occur with the skin condition psoriasis. Skin symptoms in children include nail pitting or ridging, and atypical rash behind the ears, on the eyelids, elbows, knees and at the scalp line or the umbilicus. Arthritis may involve both large and small joints, usually asymmetrically: The spine may also be involved.
Psychiatrist: A medical doctor who specializes in the study, treatment and prevention of mental disorders. A psychiatrist may provide counseling and prescribe medicines and other therapies.
Psychologist: A mental health-care professional who has received training in counseling and administering therapy. However, because they are not medical doctors, most may not prescribe medications.
Pulmonologist: A physician who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of lung disorders.
Raynaud’s phenomenon: An extreme sensitivity to cold that causes narrowing of the blood vessels in the fingers along with a sensation of tingling or numbness, and color changes to the skin.
Reactive arthritis: A form of arthritis that develops as a reaction to certain types of infections.
Remission: A period of time when the symptoms of a disease or condition improve or even disappear altogether.
Review article: Review articles attempt to gather all the research data on one topic that can be found in numerous studies and summarize it. They are good for getting a broad understanding of a topic.
Reye’s syndrome: A rare, serious condition that sometimes occurs in children who have the chicken pox or flu and are taking aspirin. Symptoms include frequent vomiting, very painful headaches, unusual behavior, extreme tiredness and disorientation.
Rheumatic diseases: A general term referring to conditions characterized by pain and stiffness of the joints or muscles. The term is often used interchangeably with “arthritis”, but not all rheumatic disease affects the joints or involves inflammation.
Rheumatoid factor (RF): An antibody that appears in unusually high amounts in the blood of some people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Rheumatoid factor (RF) test: A test to detect rheumatoid factor in the blood. A positive test may help with confirming a diagnosis or in predicting how severe disease will become. It is rarely positive in children unless they have RF-positive polyarthritis. A positive result can mean a greater risk of severe disease so aggressive treatment is often used.
Rheumatologist: A physician who specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention or arthritis and other rheumatic disorders.
Sclerodactyly: Localized scleroderma of the fingers or toes.
Scleroderma: A chronic hardening and thickening of the skin. Scleroderma is rare in children. There are two general categories of scleroderma: localized scleroderma, which mainly affects the skin, and systemic scleroderma (sclerosis), which may affect the skin as well as other parts of the body.
Social worker: A licensed professional who assists people in need by helping them capitalized on their own resources and connecting them with social services such as home nursing care or vocational rehabilitation.
Soft tissue release: Surgery in which tight tissues are cut and repaired to allow the joint to return to its normal position.
Spondyloarthropathies: A group of diseases that involve the spine. These include ankylosing spondylitis, seronegative enthesopathy and arthropathy syndrome (SEAsyndrome), arthritis associated with inflammatory bowel disease, reactive arthritis and Reiter’s syndrome. These diseases occur more often in males than females.
Synovectomy: Surgery in which the diseased lining of the joint, the synovial membrane, or a portion on the lining is removed.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLEor lupus): A rheumatic disease involving the skin, joints, muscles and sometimes internal organs. Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by fever and rash that come and go. Most children with lupus develop the disease during adolescence.
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ): the joint in front of the ears, where the lower jaw connects to the base of the skull. Arthritis may affect this joint in the same way it does others, by causing pain, stiffness and altered growth.
Therapist: A medical professional that specializes in providing a certain type of therapy. This could include but is not limited to physical therapy, occupational therapy or mental health assistance.
Vasculitis: Diseases characterized by inflammation of the blood vessels. Forms of vasculitis include Henoch-Schonlein purpura (HSP), polyarteritis nodosa, Kawasaki disease, Wegener’s granulomatosis, Takayasu’s arteritis and Behcet’s syndrome. These conditions can be primary childhood diseases or features of other syndromes such as juvenile dermatomyositis and lupus.