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Arthritis – Not Just an Adult Disorder

By Patricia Taitt, MD | Rheumatology

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, approximately 294,000 children in the U.S. under age 18 have arthritis or other rheumatic conditions. Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, is the most common type of childhood arthritis. It is usually an autoimmune disorder. Juvenile arthritis can affect children of all ages, races and ethnicities. There is no known cause for the disorder but it can be diagnosed through a physical examination and review of symptoms, family health history, X-rays, and blood tests.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Constant joint pain, swelling or stiffness;
  • High fever;
  • Stiffness;
  • Skin rash;
  • Fatigue (tiredness);
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Swelling in lymph nodes in the neck and other parts of the body;
  • Inflammation of the eye; or
  • Difficulty with daily living activities such as walking, dressing, and playing.


Several serious complications can result from juvenile idiopathic arthritis but keeping a careful watch on your child’s condition and seeking appropriate medical attention can greatly reduce the risk of these complications:

  • Eye problems: Some forms can cause eye inflammation (uveitis). If this condition is left untreated, it may result in cataracts, glaucoma and even blindness. Eye inflammation frequently occurs without symptoms, so it’s important for children with this condition to be examined regularly by an ophthalmologist.
  • Growth problems: Juvenile idiopathic arthritis can interfere with your child’s growth and bone development. Some medications used for treatment, mainly steroids, also can inhibit growth.

Treatment Options

  • NSAIDS (Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
  • Steroid injections
  • Oral steroids
  • DMARDS (Disease modifying drugs)

When to See a Doctor

Take your child to the doctor if he or she has joint pain, swelling or stiffness for more than two weeks — especially if he or she also has a fever. Your child may be referred to a pediatric rheumatologist for further evaluation.

While there is no cure for juvenile arthritis, some children may achieve permanent remission. Exercise plays a large part in reducing the symptoms of arthritis and maintaining range of motion of the joints.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases