Juvenile idiopathic arthritis is the most common type of arthritis in children. Symptoms include stiffness, pain and vision problems. Treatments include medications and physical and occupational therapy.
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is the most common type of arthritis that affects children. JIA is a chronic (long-lasting) disease that can affect joints in any part of the body.
JIA is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly targets the synovium, the tissue that lines the inside of the joint, and the synovial fluid in the joint. This causes the synovium to make extra synovial fluid, which leads to swelling, pain and stiffness in the joint.
This process can spread to the nearby tissues, eventually damaging cartilage and bone. Other areas of the body, especially the eyes, may also be affected by the inflammation. If it is not treated, JIA can interfere with a child’s normal growth and development.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
There are several types of JIA, depending on the symptoms and the number of joints involved:
JIA is the most common type of arthritis in children. It affects about 1 in 1,000 children, or about 300,000 children in the United States.
The causes of JIA are not known. Factors that may be involved, alone or in combination, include genetics (the disease may be inherited), infection and environmental factors that influence the immune system.
Symptoms vary depending on the type of JIA and may include:
Because there are no tests for JIA, the doctor will try to rule out other causes of arthritis and other diseases as the cause of the symptoms.
To diagnose JIA, the doctor will take a complete medical history that includes a description of symptoms and perform a physical examination. The doctor will also examine the joints for signs of arthritis.
The doctor may also order these tests:
The goals of treatment are to relieve pain, reduce swelling, increase joint mobility and strength, and prevent joint damage and complications. Treatment generally includes medications and exercise.
Medications used to treat JIA include the following:
Exercise and physical and occupational therapy can help reduce pain, maintain muscle tone, improve mobility (ability to move) and prevent permanent handicaps. In some cases, splints or braces also may be used to help protect the joints as the child grows. Special accommodations with schools may be needed to adjust for children with limitations from their arthritis.
If it is not treated, JIA can lead to:
At this time, because the cause of JIA is unknown, there is no method to prevent the development of JIA.
JIA affects each child differently. For some, only one or two joints are affected and the disease is easy to control. For others, JIA may involve many joints and the symptoms may be more severe and may last longer.
With early detection and treatment, including physical and occupational therapy, it is possible to achieve good control of the arthritis, prevent joint damage, and allow normal or near-normal function for most children who have JIA.
Children with JIA should live life as normal as possible. Attending school, playing sports, participating in extracurricular and family activities regularly is encouraged. Exercise does not make symptoms of arthritis worse. In fact, exercise can help prevent deconditioning, increase muscle strength and muscle endurance to support the joints.
There is no evidence that shows special diets are effective for arthritis, so children can eat a standard, well-balanced diet.
The Arthritis Foundation is a leading non-profit organization that is dedicated to addressing the needs of adults and children living with arthritis in the United States. There are more than one hundred local offices throughout the U.S. Many local and national events are organized to educate and connect patients and families. To learn more visit https://www.arthritis.org/
Some information specific to children can be found at http://www.kidsgetarthritistoo.org/.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/02/2019.
Learn more about our editorial process.