Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is a disease that causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of movement of the joints. It is the most common form of arthritis in children. It is also called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Many children with this disease have a mild form and few problems. However, some forms of this disease can produce long-term problems.
There are at least 5 types of JIA:
Your child may have just 1 attack, but more often the symptoms come and go. Repeated attacks can lead to permanent joint damage. However, you can relieve symptoms and prevent or slow down joint damage by following your child’s treatment plan. The outlook for JIA is often better than for an adult with arthritis. Many children with JIA outgrow the arthritis and recover completely by adulthood.
The exact cause of JIA is not known. It appears to be an autoimmune disease. This means that the body's defenses against infection attack the body's own tissue. When your child has JIA, the attack is mostly against the tissues that line the joints. The tissues get inflamed, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness. The inflammation also damages bone and cartilage (the cushioning in joints) and can change the shape of your child’s joints.
Things that may cause or contribute to JIA are:
Symptoms may include:
The first symptoms of JIA may be fever and chills and a light pink rash. Get medical help for your child right away if he has redness on the front part of the eyes and painful sensitivity to light. These may be symptoms of a serious complication of JIA called uveitis.
Your child’s healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine your child. Tests may include:
Your child may have more tests to check for other possible causes of the symptoms. Your provider may refer your child to a rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in treating diseases like JIA.
The goals of treatment are to:
There are many medicines for JIA that can lessen swelling and pain or slow down or stop damage to the joints.
Discuss the risks, benefits, and costs of your child’s medicines with your healthcare provider.
JIA may cause abnormal bone growth. Also, if your child avoids using a painful joint, the lack of movement can weaken and shorten muscles. Physical therapy can help your child have better use of joints and muscles. Your child’s physical therapist will prescribe exercises and the right amount of activity for your child. Sometimes it may help to use a splint or brace to rest a joint and protect it from injury.
Your child's provider may advise arthroscopy, which is a type of surgery done with a small scope inserted into the joint. The provider can look directly at the joint and sometimes do small repairs of the joint without having to cut open the joint.
Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. In addition:
Ask your child’s healthcare provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for checkups. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.