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What Is Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis?

Story at-a-glance

  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), more commonly known today as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, is a category that focuses on other several forms of chronic arthritis in children.
  • In the late 1990s, JIA was known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in the U.S. and juvenile chronic arthritis in Europe, but the names were changed to distinguish it further from rheumatoid arthritis in adults. It’s considered to be the most frequent chronic rheumatologic disease among children.

While most rheumatoid arthritis cases generally affect adults, it doesn’t mean young children and adolescents are immune from this disease. Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), more known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, is a category that focuses on other several forms of chronic arthritis in children.

JIA was first known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in the U.S. and juvenile chronic arthritis in Europe until the late 1990s, when the names were changed to differentiate it from rheumatoid arthritis in adults. As MedicineNet highlights, JIA is considered the “most frequent chronic rheumatologic disease” among children. There are seven categories of juvenile idiopathic arthritis, namely:1,2

Systemic arthritis or Still’s disease

Polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis — rheumatoid factor positive

Polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis — rheumatoid factor negative

Oligoarthritis or pauciarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis

Enthesitis-related arthritis

Undifferentiated arthritis

Most cases of JIA fall under oligoarthritis , affecting around half of young patients, while polyarthritis targets nearly 30 percent of children with juvenile arthritis.3

What Are JIA’s Common Symptoms?

Just like other types of arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues.4 As a result, a child’s joints in the hands, knees and feet are affected, and he or she usually feels constant pain, swelling, tenderness and/or stiffness in these areas. Other indicators of JIA may include:5,6,7

Increased warmth and redness in the joint

High fever and skin rashes

Limping

Constant clumsiness

Swollen lymph nodes

Rashes

Irritability

Blurry vision

Eye inflammation, redness or pain

Eye infections like uveitis8

Fatigue

Slowing down of overall growth

Reduced appetite

Poor weight gain or weight loss

Growth problems that can result in misshapen bones or unequal bone length9

What Is the Difference Between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis?

The major difference between rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile idiopathic arthritis lies in the age they affect patients. RA usually affects adults, especially the elderly,10 while JIA is diagnosed if the symptoms occur in a child less than 16 years of age for at least six weeks.11

A definitive cause for juvenile idiopathic arthritis has not been identified, as doctors haven’t discovered the main triggers of autoimmune diseases like JIA. However, ongoing research is examining the possibilities of genetic and environmental factors that may trigger the disease.12

Another reason why young people may be affected with juvenile idiopathic arthritis is because they might be having an auto inflammatorycondition instead of an autoimmune condition. Out of the types of JIA known today, only systemic JIA is considered an auto inflammatory disease.13,14 Although both auto inflammatory and autoimmune diseases trigger immune cell-mediated attacks on the body,15,16 there is a difference between these two conditions.

Diseases that are considered autoimmune do not have a definite cause. While genetic and environmental factors are predominantly linked to these conditions, they are not the “root cause.” On the other hand, auto inflammatory diseases may occur because some genes underwent alterations that eventually paved the way for problems in proteins needed for certain bodily functions.17,18

MORE ABOUT RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Introduction

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid Arthritis Types

Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

Rheumatoid Arthritis Causes

Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment

Rheumatoid Arthritis Prevention

Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Hereditary?

Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis vs Osteoarthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis Diet

Rheumatoid Arthritis FAQ

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Sources and References

  • 1 MedicineNet, February 14, 2018
  • 2, 3, 7 WebMD, May 16, 2017
  • 4 Genetics Home Reference, May 15, 2018
  • 5, 12 National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Skin Diseases, June 30, 2015
  • 6, 11 University of Rochester Medical Center, “Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis”
  • 8 American Academy of Ophthalmology, January 30, 2018
  • 9 Medical News Today, July 10, 2017
  • 10 Mayo Clinic, August 9, 2017
  • 13 Arthritis Foundation, “What Is Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis?”
  • 14 Inflammation and Regeneration, Vol. 31 No. 1, January 2011
  • 15, 17 National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Skin Diseases, January 30, 2017
  • 16, 18 National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Skin Diseases, March 30, 2016
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