SickKids experts help develop new guidelines for juvenile arthritis treatment

The O’Hanley family travelled from Northern Ontario to The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) where Jean was diagnosed juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). After aggressive treatments on her swollen knee, three months later she is back to herself participating in gymnastics, swimming and biking.           

JIA is one of the most prevalent chronic childhood diseases affecting one in every 1,000 Canadians under the age of 16. A group of SickKids rheumatologists and other international health-care professionals developed new guidelines for the treatment of JIA that will provide useful recommendations for clinicians around the world. The guidelines were released on March 30 by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR).
“Early diagnosis and targeted treatment are essential for children with juvenile arthritis to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle,” says Dr. Ronald Laxer, Staff Rheumatologist at SickKids and contributor to the guidelines which focus on the safe use of multiple medications, more specifically the use of biologic medications. “The guidelines offer health-care providers the tools to deliver the best care and improve their patients’ quality of life.”  

There is no known cause for JIA, which is defined as the continuous inflammation of one or more joints for at least 6 weeks. Common symptoms are swollen and painful joints, stiffness, and difficulty moving. It is important for the patient and family to work closely with the multidisciplinary clinical team – which includes the doctor, nurse, physiotherapists, social worker and psychologist – to achieve optimal results. Effective treatment involves a variety of medications, physiotherapy, exercise and emotional support.

“As a parent, it was devastating to see my child in pain and not know how to help,” says Karen O’Hanley, Jean’s mother. “We’re so thankful that Jean’s JIA was detected quickly and that treatment began immediately. Now she’s running around, busy enjoying life.”