Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA, Arthritis in Childhood, Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, JRA, Juvenile Chronic Arthritis)

  • Medical Author:
    John Mersch, MD, FAAP

    Dr. Mersch received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego, and prior to entering the University Of Southern California School Of Medicine, was a graduate student (attaining PhD candidate status) in Experimental Pathology at USC. He attended internship and residency at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Learn about JRA symptoms and signs.

15 Early Symptoms and Signs of RA

While early RA symptoms can be mimicked by other diseases, the symptoms and signs are very characteristic of rheumatoid disease. The 15 early rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and signs discussed in this article include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Joint tenderness
  • Joint swelling
  • Joint redness
  • Joint stiffness
  • Loss of joint range of motion
  • ...

Quick GuideRheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Exercises Slideshow: Joint-Friendly Fitness Routines

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Exercises Slideshow: Joint-Friendly Fitness Routines

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA)/juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) facts

  • JIA was known in the U.S. in the past as JRA (juvenile rheumatoid arthritis or juvenile RA).
  • Epidemiologic studies estimate that approximately 294,000 American children are affected by JIA.
  • Children of European ancestry are more likely to develop the condition while those of Japanese and Filipino background are less likely.
  • When considering the manifestation options of JIA, those children with European background are more likely to experience the oligoarticular version of JIA (see below) while those of African-American heritage are more likely have the rheumatoid factor (RF) positive, polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis version (see below).
  • Among Caucasian children developing oligoarticular JIA, younger girls (2-4 years of age) are the most commonly affected.
  • Genes seemed to play a role both in the development of JIA, as well as the clinical manifestations that may affect a child.

What is juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA)/juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA)?

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is the umbrella term under which several forms of chronic arthritis in children are categorized. Regardless of type, all of these conditions have several historical and/or clinical characteristics in common. One or more joints must demonstrate evidence of inflammation characterized by swollen joints, limitation in the range of motion of the involved joint(s), tenderness when the joint is moved, and increased warmth of the joint region. These symptoms must be present (even intermittently) for at least six weeks and affect a child less than 16 years of age.

JIA is the most frequent chronic rheumatologic disease of childhood, and the cause(s) are not well understood. Both environmental and genetic influences are felt to contribute to the development of signs and symptoms of JIA. Knowledgeable specialists (pediatric rheumatologists usually affiliated with pediatric teaching hospitals) can help to limit the possibility of complications of juvenile idiopathic arthritis including leg-length discrepancy, joint contractures, and destruction and blindness due to inflammation of the eye (iritis).

Until the late 1990s, JIA was known in the U.S. as JRA (juvenile rheumatoid arthritis) and JCA (juvenile chronic arthritis) in Europe. The revised name was devised in order to better distinguish the childhood disease from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) that affects adults. This new nomenclature has enabled the categorization of six JIA subtypes. This updated classification has helped to foster better communication among those doing research on causation, clinical manifestations, and therapy of JIA.

JIA is considered a diagnosis of exclusion; the diagnosis can only be confidently made when (1) the patient's history, physical exam, and laboratory findings are consistent with those described in the literature by the International League of Associations for Rheumatology and (2) other conditions have been excluded. These include infection, malignancy, trauma, reactive arthritis, immunodeficiency, and other connective tissue/rheumatologic diseases (for example, systemic lupus erythematosus).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/14/2016

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