What is Juvenile Arthritis?

July 31, 2020

Young beautiful child girl wearing yellow floral dress standing over isolated white background Suffering pain on hands and fingers, arthritis inflammation; blog: What is Juvenile Arthritis?

Most children get aches and pains every now and then. However, some children experience pain in their joints beyond the typical “growing pains.” Although it’s mostly thought of as an adult condition, arthritis can affect children. According to the Arthritis National Research Foundation, nearly 300,000 children in America have arthritis. July is Juvenile Arthritis Month, so we’re going to take a closer look at this condition and how it affects children.

About Juvenile Arthritis

JA is arthritis in children under the age of 16. Juvenile arthritis is not the same as the aches and pains many adults get as they age. It is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its own joints. Some types of JA can cause symptoms for just a few months while others can cause symptoms for the rest of the child’s life.

To understand juvenile arthritis, it helps to know about the differences between the two most common types of arthritis in adults:

  • Osteoarthritis: Everyone has probably known an older relative who has arthritis in their shoulder or knee. This type of arthritis is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is also known as “wear and tear” arthritis because it develops naturally over time as people age and their cartilage wears down with decades of continuous use. It can also develop more quickly after an injury or trauma.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. It occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the linking of a joint capsule. The capsule is a tough membrane that encloses all the parts of the joining. The capsule becomes inflamed and swollen and the disease can eventually destroy the joint’s cartilage and bone.

Types of JA

When people talk about JA, they’re usually referring to juvenile idiopathic arthritis, which is a rheumatic disease similar to rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, it used to be called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis until it was renamed as juvenile idiopathic arthritis. The word “idiopathic” means that the cause of the condition is unknown. 

There are six types of juvenile idiopathic arthritis:

  1. Oligoarthritis: This is the most common form of JA. It affects four joints or fewer and symptoms are often mild. There is usually little to no permanent joint damage.
  2. Polyarthritis: Five or more joints are affected and onset can happen in a matter of months. 
  3. Systemic-onset JA: This type of JA can be severe and inflammation can occur in the entire body, not just the joints. Children with systemic-onset JA may have fevers, rashes loss of appetite, and weight loss.
  4. Juvenile psoriatic arthritis: A combination of JA and psoriasis, which is an autoimmune skin condition. Psoriasis is notable for a scaly red rash that occurs behind the ears, or on the elbows, knees, back, buttocks, eyelids, or scalp.
  5. Enthesitis-related arthritis: This type of JA is also called spondyloarthritis. It causes inflammation in joints at the points where tendons attach to the bone. It most commonly affects the legs and spine. It is more common in boys than in girls.
  6. Undifferentiated juvenile arthritis: When a child’s JA symptoms do not fall into one of the above categories it is called undifferentiated. They may have a combination of symptoms from more than one category.


Unfortunately, it is difficult for doctors to diagnose juvenile arthritis sometimes because the symptoms may be attributed to other causes. The symptoms of arthritis in children may include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Loss of motion
  • Excessive clumsiness
  • High fever and skin rash
  • Swelling in the lymph nodes

Symptoms may be worse in the morning or when waking up from a nap. For instance, many children with arthritis will have a limp in the morning due to stiffness in their knee.

Treatment & Management

Treatment for juvenile arthritis focuses on managing symptoms so the child can have a normal level of physical and social activity. Treatment may include a combination of medications and physical therapy.

Medications are prescribed to relieve pain, minimize joint damage, and improve the overall function of the joint. Physical therapy is designed to help keep joints flexible so the child can maintain their muscle tone and range of motion. 

Talk To A Pediatrician

If your child has the symptoms of juvenile arthritis, then you should consult your pediatrician. They can evaluate your child and refer them to a specialist if needed. As the primary care provider, they’ll also be an integral part of the healthcare team if your child does have the condition.

Holly Springs Pediatrics is committed to providing quality care to your kids at all times. That includes being there in uncertain times. We will always prioritize the health and safety of your family. Call our Holly Springs, NC pediatric office at (919) 249-4700 to schedule an appointment or talk to a staff member.