Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

What is Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), also known as juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) by clinicians today, is a kind of arthritis that causes joint inflammation and stiffness in children aged 16 and under for more than six weeks. In the United States, it affects roughly 50,000 children. Although many children with JRA may not complain of joint discomfort, inflammation generates redness, swelling, warmth, and soreness. Any joint can be impacted, and inflammation can impair joint movement.

What causes Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis?

JRA is an autoimmune illness in which the body misidentifies certain of its own cells and tissues as alien. The immune system, which typically aids in the defence against potentially hazardous foreign substances such as bacteria or viruses, begins to target healthy cells and tissues. Inflammation results, which is characterised by redness, heat, discomfort, and swelling.

Researchers are yet unsure why the immune system malfunctions in children with JRA, but they assume it is a two-step process. First, something in a child's genetic composition predisposes them to developing JRA. The development of JRA is then triggered by an environmental component, such as a virus.

Is there a difference between arthritis in adults and that of kids?

The key distinction between juvenile and adult arthritis is that some children with JRA outgrow the condition, whereas adults frequently endure symptoms for the rest of their lives. According to studies, JRA symptoms diminish in more than half of all afflicted children by maturity. Furthermore, unlike adult rheumatoid arthritis, JRA can impact bone formation as well as growth in children.

Another distinction between JRA and adult rheumatoid arthritis is the proportion of patients who have rheumatoid factor in their blood. Rheumatoid factor is present in around 70% to 80% of all adults with rheumatoid arthritis, although it is present in less than half of all children with rheumatoid arthritis. The presence of rheumatoid factor increases the likelihood that JRA will progress into adulthood.

Classification of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis?


Pauciarticular (paw-see-are-tick-you-lar) refers to four or fewer joints. This is the most prevalent kind of JRA; almost half of all children with JRA have it. It usually affects big joints like the knees. This kind of JRA is most common in girls under the age of eight. Certain children with pauciarticular JRA (ANAs) have aberrant proteins seen in the blood called antinuclear antibodies (ANAs).

Eye illness affects 20% to 30% of pauciarticular JRA children and is more frequent in children with abnormal ANAs. To address major eye issues such as iritis (inflammation of the iris or coloured area of the eye) or uveitis, (inflammation of the inner eye, or uvea),Regular preventative checkups by an ophthalmologist (a doctor who specializes in eye illnesses) are required. Many children with pauciarticular illness grow out of arthritis by maturity, while eye difficulties and joint symptoms might persist in some persons.


Polyarticular disease affects five or more joints in approximately 30% of all children with JRA. The condition most usually affects tiny joints, such as those in the hands and feet, although it can also affect major joints. Polyarticular JRA is frequently symmetrical, meaning that it affects the same joints on both sides of the body. Some children with polyarticular disease have a kind of antibody called rheumatoid factor in their blood. These children frequently have a more severe version of the disease, which experts compare to adult rheumatoid arthritis.


In addition to joint swelling, the systemic type of JRA is distinguished by fever and a light pink rash, and it can damage internal organs such as the heart, liver, spleen, and lymph nodes. 20% of children with JRA have the systemic type, often known as Still's disease. Almost all children with this kind of JRA tested negative for both rheumatoid factor and anaplastic lymphoma. A tiny fraction of these youngsters develops arthritis in several joints, which can progress to severe arthritis that lasts into adulthood.

Symptoms of JRA

The most frequent symptoms of all varieties of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) include chronic joint swelling, pain, and stiffness, which is usually greater in the morning or after a nap. Other signs and symptoms may include:

  • An intermittent fever

  • Reduced appetite

  • Loss of weight

  • Anemia

  • A child's arms and legs have a blotchy rash.

The discomfort may make mobility of the afflicted joint difficult. Many children, particularly younger ones, do not complain about discomfort.

JRA most typically affects the knees, as well as the joints in the hands and feet. Limping in the morning due to a stiff knee is one of the first indicators of the condition.

In addition to joint symptoms, children with "systemic JRA" experience a high temperature and a mild skin rash. The rash and fever may occur together and then vanish abruptly. Systemic JRA can cause swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck and other regions of the body. Internal organs such as the heart and, in rare situations, the lungs may be affected in fewer than half of the cases.

Eye inflammation is a potentially serious consequence that can occur in children with another kind of JRA known as "pauciarticular JRA." Eye problems such as iritis and uveitis normally do not appear until a kid has had JRA for a long time.

Typically, there are times when JRA symptoms improve or cease ("remissions") and times when symptoms worsen ("flare-ups"). Each child's condition is unique. Some people may only have one or two flare-ups and never have symptoms again. Others experience frequent flare-ups or have symptoms that never go away.

Some children with JRA may experience growth issues. Growth in afflicted joints and neighbouring bones may be too rapid or too slow depending on the severity of the condition and the joints involved. As a result, one leg or arm may be longer than the other. The height of a kid may be altered, and their total growth may be slower than usual. Jaw abnormalities are also reported to occur. Doctors are investigating the use of growth hormones to treat this condition.

Treatment of JRA

This is also known as "JIA," or juvenile idiopathic arthritis. ("Idiopathic" refers to the fact that the aetiology is unknown.)

Working with a paediatric rheumatologist, a specialist who specialises in caring for children with arthritis and other joint issues, is ideal. If your location does not have one, you can consult with your child's physician and a rheumatologist. Physical therapists, physiatrists (rehabilitation experts), and occupational therapists can all help.

The doctor will prescribe a treatment plan to reduce swelling, restore full mobility to the damaged joints, relieve pain, and diagnose, treat, and prevent complications. To achieve these goals, the majority of children with JRA require medication and physical treatment.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen, as well as other prescription medications, are frequently the first kind of therapy utilised. Most doctors will not give aspirin to children since it might cause bleeding difficulties, stomach distress, liver problems, or Reye's syndrome. However, for some children, the proper amount of aspirin, as determined by blood testing, can treat JRA symptoms with minimal major side effects.

If NSAIDs do not offer adequate relief, disease-modifying anti-rheumatic medications (DMARDs) are frequently utilised. DMARDs may prevent the progression of JRA. However, because they take weeks or months to cure symptoms, they are frequently used with an NSAID. Methotrexate is the most common DMARD prescribed by doctors for JRA.

Children with severe JRA may benefit from corticosteroids such as prednisone. These medications can help to alleviate significant symptoms such as inflammation of the heart's lining (pericarditis). Doctors can provide these JRA medications to children intravenously, intramuscularly, or orally. Steroids can impair a child's natural growth and create a round face, weight gain, weakening bones, and an increased risk of infection.

If other treatments fail to work, biologic drugs, which are genetically designed, may be utilised in children. Abatacept (Orencia), adalimumab (Humira), canakinumab (Ilaris), etanercept (Enbrel), and tocilizumab are examples of injectables (Actemra). Biologics work by targeting proteins that cause inflammation to reduce the hyperactive immune system.

Rehabilitation Therapy

Physical therapy should be part of your child's JRA treatment. It keeps their muscles strong, allowing their joints to move as freely as possible.

A physical therapist or physiatrist can design an activity regimen for your child. Splints and other devices may also be recommended by the specialist to assist in preserving proper bone and joint development.