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Juvenile idiopathic arthritis

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

Arthritis is a term used to describe pain and inflammation affecting a joint. Any joint in the body can be affected by arthritis, but the most commonly affected joints include joints of the hand and fingers, hip, knee, shoulder, lower back and neck.

There are two main types of arthritis; osteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis. The majority of cases of arthritis affect older adults. A very small proportion of people with arthritis are young children or teenagers.

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is a type of inflammatory arthritis affecting young people and refers to persisting joint inflammation that first occurs under the age of 16 and which lasts for at least 6 weeks. There are a number of different types of JIA, but all are uncommon, affecting around 1 to 2 children in every 10,000. In juvenile idiopathic arthritis, the body’s immune system attacks the joints, causing pain, swelling and, in some cases, joint damage. The problem is very variable and can affect only one joint, a few, or several joints around the body. There may also be other symptoms not affecting the joints (known as extra-articular symptoms), such as eye inflammation, inflammation of the lining of the heart, lungs or abdomen, a high temperature, or feeling tired all the time.

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis is a rare condition and is usually only diagnosed by specialists. It is important for a diagnosis of JIA to be made since, without treatment, it can lead to growth problems, bone weakness and delay of puberty.

More information

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis is only diagnosed after a specialist excludes other joint pain causes. If you or your child is suffering from a painful joint, there are many other more likely causes, most of which will resolve on their own.

When should I see my doctor?

If your child has had a painful joint that has been ongoing for several weeks, they should be seen by your doctor. Your doctor may refer you to see a specialist for further examination and tests.

If your child is diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis your doctor may recommend medication to help control the disease and there are now lots of treatments available. In some children, the problem can slowly go away on its own whereas in others it can be a long-term problem requiring long-term medication. However, with modern treatments the outlook for most children with JIA is very good.

It is particularly important to see your doctor if your child has a new painful joint or develops a limp associated with being unwell.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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