What is Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis?

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is an autoimmune disease that affects the joints of children ages 16 and younger. The condition causes the joint to become inflamed and makes moving the joint difficult or painful. The eyes, skin, and gastrointestinal tract may also be affected.

Although the cause of JIA is unknown, research suggests that a combination of genetics and environmental factors may trigger its onset. Girls are more prone to JIA than boys, and children with a family history of inflammatory back arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease have a higher risk of developing the disease.

Symptoms of Juvenile Arthritis

JIA symptoms range from mild to severe. Although other, less serious conditions may cause the same symptoms, children should see a doctor if they experience the following:

  • Joint stiffness (especially in the morning or after long periods of rest)
  • Joints that are painful, swollen, tender, or weak
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Pink eye
  • Rash
  • Growth problems

Diagnosis and Treatment

In order to correctly diagnose juvenile idiopathic arthritis, doctors may order more than one test. Blood tests cannot confirm JIA but may be done to eliminate other health conditions that cause similar symptoms. In addition, doctors will perform a physical exam, look at family medical history, and may refer the child to a pediatric rheumatologist who will determine the type of symptoms and the length of time they have been present.

Mount Sinai customizes the optimal treatment plan for each patient. While there is no cure for JIA, treatment aims to relieve pain and inflammation, prevent incapacity, and improve the child’s quality of life. In addition to medications, physical therapy and/or maintenance devices may be recommended. With proper treatment and support, a child with JIA can maintain a normal life.