What is juvenile idiopathic arthritis?
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), sometimes called
juvenile chronic arthritis (JCA) or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
(JRA), is a childhood disease that causes
swollen joints . This makes joints stiff and painful.
Unlike adults with
rheumatoid arthritis, many children with the disease
grow out of it after they get treatment. Others will need ongoing treatment as
There are three types of juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
Pauciarticular is the most common and
mildest type. Your child may have pain in 1 to 4 joints, such as the knees,
ankles, fingers, toes, wrists, elbows, or hips.
Polyarticular is more severe. It affects more joints
and tends to get worse over time. It often begins in the knees and
Systemic is the least common type. But
it can be the most serious. It causes pain in many joints and can also spread
What causes juvenile idiopathic
Doctors don't really know what causes the disease. But there are a
number of things that they think can lead to it. These things include:
immune system that is too active and attacks joint
- Viruses or other infections that cause the immune system
to attack joint tissues.
- Having a certain
gene that makes the immune system more likely to
attack joint tissues.
What are the symptoms?
Children can have one or many symptoms, such as:
- Joint pain.
- Joint stiffness.
- Problems walking.
In some cases these symptoms can be mild and hard for you to see. A
young child may be more cranky than normal or may go back to crawling after he
or she has started walking. You may notice that your child feels stiff in the
morning or has trouble walking.
Children with this disease can also get inflammatory
eye disease. This can lead to blindness if it’s not
treated. Eye disease often has no symptoms before vision loss occurs. That’s
why it’s important for your child to have regular eye examinations with an
ophthalmologist. Treatment can begin before your child
has long-lasting vision problems.
How is juvenile idiopathic arthritis
Your doctor will ask questions about your child’s symptoms and past
health and will do a physical examination. Your child may also have blood tests
and a urine test to look for signs of the disease. If your child has the
disease, these tests can help your doctor find out which type it is.
How is it treated?
Your child’s treatment will be based on the type of arthritis he or
she has and how serious it is. The most common treatment includes medicines to
reduce pain and swelling
(NSAIDs), along with
physiotherapy. Your child may also get shots of
steroid medicine into a joint to relieve swelling and
If these treatments don't help, then your child may be given other
medicines. Surgery to correct joint problems is only done in rare cases.
Exercise is an important part of your child’s treatment.
Physiotherapists can teach you and your child exercises to keep your child’s
muscles flexible and strong. Moving your child's painful joints through their
full range of motion keeps them from getting stiff or deformed. Many children
with the disease don't want to move painful joints. Your child may need your
help to keep doing daily physiotherapy.
Even when juvenile idiopathic arthritis is not a severe type, your
child may still need long-term treatment. To make sure that treatment is right
for your child, work closely with the medical team. Learn as much as you can
about your child’s disease and treatments. Stay on a schedule with your child’s
medicines and exercise.
How do you cope with juvenile idiopathic
Exercise, medicine, and assistive devices will help your child get
through each day as normally as possible. Assistive devices are things that can
help your child hold onto, open, or close things more easily. A doorknob
extender, used to open a door without twisting a wrist, is one such device.
Children with this disease need to balance exercise and rest. They
may need extra rest during the day to relax their joints and keep up their
energy. But be sure that your child gets enough exercise. This will help keep
joints strong and flexible.
Pain relief exercises can help you and your child control joint
pain caused by the disease. Your child’s doctor can help you set up a pain
management plan. This plan might include heat treatments, exercise, and a type
of counselling called
cognitive-behavioural therapy. Breathing and
relaxation exercises can also help ease your child’s pain.
Frequently Asked Questions