What is Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis?

Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) is a general name for several kinds of arthritis. “Juvenile” means that it affects young people, “idiopathic” means that we don’t know what the cause is, and “arthritis” means inflammation of the joints. Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis used to be called Juvenile Chronic Arthritis (JCA). In some countries it is called Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA), and sometimes people simply call it Juvenile Arthritis (JA).

JIA is chronic arthritis that begins in children under 16 years of age. It causes inflammation in one or more joints for 6 weeks or longer.

JIA can appear in many different ways and can range in severity. It mostly affects the joints and the surrounding tissues, although it can affect other organs like the eyes. Some of the symptoms and signs of an inflamed joint include joint swelling, pain, stiffness (especially in the morning), and warmth around the joint. Your child may not have all of these in every joint that is inflamed. Less commonly, your child may also have other symptoms such as fever, rash, loss of appetite and loss of weight.
What does chronic mean?

  • painful, swollen or stiff joint(s)
  • joint(s) that are warm to touch
  • increased tiredness
  • a fever that keeps returning
  • a limp but no injury.

Conditions can be acute (starting suddenly or short-lived) or chronic (lasting longer but not necessarily forever). JIA is considered a chronic condition because the joints involved are inflamed for at least 6 weeks and while treatment can alleviate the symptoms it does not lead to a ‘cure’. This means that when a child is diagnosed with JIA, it is impossible to say exactly how long the condition will last. JIA can continue for months or years. Sometimes the symptoms go away, usually after treatment. This is called remission. Remission may last for months, years, or for a lifetime. Up to 50% of children with JIA may go into full remission before adulthood.

Click here to find out more about JIA, treatments, medications and supports available.