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Juvenile Arthritis

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is an umbrella term used to describe several arthritic conditions found in children. It is one of the most common conditions found amongst children under the age of 16 years. It has been defined as ‘‘persistent arthritis of unknown cause that begins before the age of 16, and persists for at least 6 weeks’ (Petty et al. 2004).

Juvenile refers to young people, idiopathic means unknown and arthritis is the inflammation of the joints. Juvenile idiopathic arthritis is a systemic condition and thus may affect other organs of the body including joints, skin, eyes etc.

Some of the common types of JIA are described in the table below.


Type of JIA Affected sites Age of onset Commonly affects
Oligoarticular arthritis · Persistantoligoarticular arthritis – affects no more than 4 joints after 6 months

· Extended oligoarticular arthritis – affects up to 4 joints during the first 6 months; more joints affected after 6 months

Between 2-4 years Girls more than boys
Systemic arthritis · Least common type of arthritis

· Many areas of the body are affected at the same time

· Can cause a fever or a rash

Affects boys and girls equally


Polyarticular arthritis · 5 or more joints may be affected

· Two type present:

o Polyarticular – rheumatoid factor negative

o Polyarticular – rheumatoid factor positive

Between 1-12 years Girls more than boys
Enthesitis-related arthritis · Inflammation at the areas where the tendon attaches to the bone

· Other names include juvenile spondylitis or juvenile spondyloarthropathies

· Targets the large joints at the legs and the spine

Late childhood or adolescence Boys more than girls
Psoriatic arthritis · Inflammation of the joints with the presence of psoriasis

· The two conditions may not appear at the same time

· Family history of psoriasis may be present

Pre-school children or around the age of 10 years. Girls more than boys
Unclassified juvenile arthritis · The symptoms presented do not fall under any of the other categories


Symptoms of JIA include:

  • Joint pain
  • Joint swelling
  • Joint stiffness
  • Fever
  • Skin rashes
  • Anaemia
  • Vision problems

Some common diagnostic methods include:

  • Blood tests
  • X-ray scans
  • Eye tests

An early diagnosis and treatment of JIA allows for increased positive outcomes. Treatment plans vary depending on the type of JIA is affecting the child. Generally a multidisciplinary approach is undertaken for an optimal treatment plan, this include the use of a doctor, paediatric rheumatologist, dieticians, physiotherapists and your friendly podiatrists. Be sure to get in as soon as any of these symptoms are noticed…the earlier the better!


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