Information for Patients
Juvenile arthritis (JA) is arthritis that happens in children. It causes joint swelling, pain, stiffness, and loss of motion. It can affect any joint, but is more common in the knees, hands, and feet. In some cases it can affect internal organs as well.
The most common type of JA that children get is juvenile idiopathic arthritis. There are several other forms of arthritis affecting children.
One early sign of JA may be limping in the morning. Symptoms can come and go. Some children have just one or two flare-ups. Others have symptoms that never go away. JA can cause growth problems and eye inflammation in some children.
No one knows exactly what causes JA. Most types are autoimmune disorders. This means that your immune system, which normally helps your body fight infection, attacks your body's own tissues.
JA can be hard to diagnose. Your health care provider may do a physical exam, lab tests, and x-rays. A team of providers usually treats JA. Medicines and physical therapy can help maintain movement and reduce swelling and pain. They may also help prevent and treat complications.
NIH: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis Juvenile idiopathic arthritis refers to a group of conditions involving joint inflammation (arthritis) that first appears before the age of 16. This condition is an autoimmune disorder, which means that the immune system malfunctions and attacks the body's organs and tissues, in this case the joints.Researchers have described seven types of juvenile idiopathic arthritis. The types are distinguished by their signs and symptoms, the number of joints affected, the results of laboratory tests, and the family history.Systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis causes inflammation in one or more joints. A high daily fever that lasts at least 2 weeks either precedes or accompanies the arthritis. Individuals with systemic arthritis may also have a skin rash or enlargement of the lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy), liver (hepatomegaly), or spleen (splenomegaly).Oligoarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis (also known as oligoarthritis) is marked by the occurrence of arthritis in four or fewer joints in the first 6 months of the disease. It is divided into two subtypes depending on the course of disease. If the arthritis is confined to four or fewer joints after 6 months, then the condition is classified as persistent oligoarthritis. If more than four joints are affected after 6 months, this condition is classified as extended oligoarthritis. Individuals with oligoarthritis are at increased risk of developing inflammation of the eye (uveitis).Rheumatoid factor positive polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis (also known as polyarthritis, rheumatoid factor positive) causes inflammation in five or more joints within the first 6 months of the disease. Individuals with this condition also have a positive blood test for proteins called rheumatoid factors. This type of arthritis closely resembles rheumatoid arthritis as seen in adults.Rheumatoid factor negative polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis (also known as polyarthritis, rheumatoid factor negative) is also characterized by arthritis in five or more joints within the first 6 months of the disease. Individuals with this type, however, test negative for rheumatoid factor in the blood.Psoriatic juvenile idiopathic arthritis involves arthritis that usually occurs in combination with a skin disorder called psoriasis. Psoriasis is a condition characterized by patches of red, irritated skin that are often covered by flaky white scales. Some affected individuals develop psoriasis before arthritis while others first develop arthritis. Other features of psoriatic arthritis include abnormalities of the fingers and nails or eye problems.Enthesitis-related juvenile idiopathic arthritis is characterized by tenderness where the bone meets a tendon, ligament, or other connective tissue. The most commonly affected places are the hips, knees, and feet. This tenderness, known as enthesitis, accompanies the joint inflammation of arthritis. Enthesitis-related arthritis may also involve inflammation in parts of the body other than the joints.The last type of juvenile idiopathic arthritis is called undifferentiated arthritis. This classification is given to affected individuals who do not fit into any of the above types or who fulfill the criteria for more than one type of juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
Rheumatoid arthritis Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease that causes chronic abnormal inflammation, primarily affecting the joints. The most common signs and symptoms are pain, swelling, and stiffness of the joints. Small joints in the hands and feet are involved most often, although larger joints (such as the shoulders, hips, and knees) may become involved later in the disease. Joints are typically affected in a symmetrical pattern; for example, if joints in the hand are affected, both hands tend to be involved. People with rheumatoid arthritis often report that their joint pain and stiffness is worse when getting out of bed in the morning or after a long rest.Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause inflammation of other tissues and organs, including the eyes, lungs, and blood vessels. Additional signs and symptoms of the condition can include a loss of energy, a low fever, weight loss, and a shortage of red blood cells (anemia). Some affected individuals develop rheumatoid nodules, which are firm lumps of noncancerous tissue that can grow under the skin and elsewhere in the body.The signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis usually appear in mid- to late adulthood. Many affected people have episodes of symptoms (flares) followed by periods with no symptoms (remissions) for the rest of their lives. In severe cases, affected individuals have continuous health problems related to the disease for many years. The abnormal inflammation can lead to severe joint damage, which limits movement and can cause significant disability.