The most commonly seen condition in our rheumatology clinic is juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is an autoimmune disease that refers to chronic joint swelling or stiffness in a child under 16 that lasts at least six weeks with no other cause. Early diagnosis and aggressive treatment of JIA in our rheumatology clinic is key to preventing or slowing joint damage and preserving joint function and mobility.
The best treatment for JIA is an individualized approach for each child. At Shriners Children's, we have on-site access to pediatric rheumatologists, orthopedists, nurses, radiologists, laboratory technicians, nutritionists, physical and occupational therapists, care managers, social workers, and orthotists and prosthetists, making it easier to provide the range of care needed.
Children can be diagnosed with JIA from a very early age through history and physical, laboratory testing, and imaging. Our overall goal is to restore function and allow each child to reach his or her full potential.
Treatment may include:
- Occupational Therapy
- Orthotics (custom braces)
- Physical Therapy
- Surgery (for severe cases)
Because Shriners Children’s provides all care and services regardless of a family’s ability to pay or insurance status, physicians and families are able to consider every appropriate treatment option available. Learn more below about how we treat JIA and our commitment to the overall well-being of your child.
Specific treatments and services may vary by location. Please contact a specific location for more information.
Types of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
There are many categories of JIA. However, the three most common types are:
- Oligoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis in children, accounting for around 40-60% of all JIA cases. Oligoarticular arthritis affects four or fewer joints, and typically is found in the large joints such as knees, ankles, wrists or elbows. Hips and shoulders are rarely affected. It affects more girls than boys, and Caucasians more than any other race. It usually begins before a child is 4 years old. Oligoarticular arthritis can be associated with an eye disease called uveitis, so children with this form of JIA should have regular eye exams.
- Polyarthritis is the second most common type of arthritis in children, accounting for around 20-30% of all JIA cases. Polyarthritis affects many joints, typically five or more. It equally involves small and large joints, often affecting weight-bearing joints such as knees, neck, jaw, ankles and feet. It tends to affect more girls than boys.
- Systemic arthritis (also known as Still’s disease) is the least common of the top three subtypes of JIA. It accounts for around 10% of all cases. It can affect only a few or many different joints, as well as other parts of the body. It is often a more severe form of JIA because of it affecting many parts of the body, rather than just the joints. Common symptoms of systemic arthritis are a spiking fever that rapidly rises and falls throughout the day, as well as a discreet, non-itchy rash of pale pink or red spots on the trunk or limbs. Swollen lymph glands are common. A child's liver and spleen may become larger than normal. Systemic arthritis rarely causes eye inflammation. Boys and girls are equally affected by systemic arthritis.
Signs of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
Symptoms of JIA vary depending on type and level of severity, but warning signs from your child can include:
- Joint inflammation (most common)
- Complaints of pain
- Chronic fever, rash, or swollen glands
- Fatigue and noticeably reduced energy level
- Refusing to use an arm or leg
- Stiffness after sleeping
Symptoms of JIA can get worse (during flare-ups) or disappear (during remission). Every child experiences JIA differently. Some children might have only one or two flare-ups in their entire lives. Others might experience many flare-ups, or even have permanent symptoms.
Pediatric Specialists You May See for Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
Staff members at Shriners Children’s are aware of the overall health and well-being of our patients, and develop appropriate, individualized care plans for each child.
If your child has JIA, we’ll help coordinate the services and specialties you need. As part of our wrap-around care, your family may work with pediatric experts in:
- Pediatric rheumatology
- Child life
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
- Radiology and imaging
- Social work
Not all specialists are available at every location. Contact any member of your child’s care team to learn more.