Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is a form of arthritis in children. Arthritis
causes joint swelling (inflammation) and joint stiffness. JIA is arthritis that
affects one or more joints for at least 6 weeks in a child age 16 or younger.
Unlike adult rheumatoid arthritis, which is ongoing (chronic) and lasts a lifetime,
children often outgrow JIA. But the disease can affect bone development in a growing
There are several types of JIA:
JIA. This type affects one or more joints. There is often a high
fever and a skin rash. It may also cause inflammation of internal organs, including
the heart, liver, spleen, and lymph nodes. It is the least common type. It affects 1
in 10 to about 1 in 7 children with JIA.
JIA. This type affects 1 to 4 joints in the first 6 months of
disease. If no more joints are affected after 6 months, this type is called
persistent. If more joints are affected after 6 months, it is called extended.
JIA. This type affects 5 or more joints in the first 6 months of
disease. Blood tests for rheumatoid factor (RF) will show if this type is
RF-positive or RF-negative.
JIA. With this type, a child has arthritis as well as enthesitis.
This is a swelling of the tissue where bone meets a tendon or ligament. It often
affects the hips, knees, and feet.
arthritis. With this type, a child may have both arthritis and a
red, scaly skin disease called psoriasis. Or a child may have arthritis and 2 or
more of the following:
arthritis. This is arthritis that has symptoms of 2 or more JIA
types above. Or the symptoms might not match any type of JIA.
Like adult rheumatoid arthritis, JIA is an autoimmune disease. This means the
body's immune system attacks its own healthy cells and tissues. JIA is caused by
several things. These include genes and the environment. This means the disease can
run in families, but can also be triggered by exposure to certain things. JIA is
linked to part of a gene called HLA antigen DR4. A person with this antigen may be
more likely to have the disease.
Symptoms may appear during episodes (flare-ups). Or they may be ongoing (chronic).
Each child’s symptoms can vary. Symptoms may include:
These symptoms can seem like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his
or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
Diagnosing JIA may be difficult. There is no single test to confirm the disease.
Your child’s healthcare provider will take your child’s health history and do a
physical exam. Your child's provider will ask about your child's symptoms, and any
recent illness. JIA is based on symptoms of inflammation that have occurred for 6
weeks or more.
Tests may also be done. These include blood tests such as:
Your child may also have imaging tests. These can show how much damage the bones
have. The tests may include:
Other tests may include:
The goal of treatment is to reduce pain and stiffness, and help your child keep as
normal a lifestyle as possible.
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also
depend on how severe the condition is.
Treatment may include medicines such as:
Talk with your child’s healthcare provider about the risks, benefits, and possible
side effects of all medicines.
Other treatments and lifestyle changes may include:
Nearly half of all children with JIA recover fully. Others may have symptoms for
years. Some will have rashes and fever. Others may have arthritis that gets worse.
Problems may include slow growth and thinning bones (osteoporosis). In rare cases,
there may be problems with the kidneys, heart, or endocrine system.
Help your child manage his or her symptoms by sticking to the treatment plan. This
includes getting enough sleep. Encourage exercise and physical therapy and find ways
to make it fun. Work with your child's school to make sure your child has help as
needed. Work with other caregivers to help your child take part as much possible in
school, social, and physical activities. Your child may also qualify for special
help under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. You can also help your
child find a support group to be around with other children with JIA.
Tell the provider if your child's symptoms get worse or there are new symptoms.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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