What is juvenile idiopathic arthritis?

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Arthritis in children is called juvenile idiopathic arthritis, or JIA. It’s really a group of illnesses which have been put under one name because they share similar symptoms. It can begin at any age, but it often starts before the age of 5. It affects both boys and girls, although it’s generally more common in girls:

  • Juvenile means that the arthritis begins before your child is 16 years old.
  • Idiopathic means that we don’t yet know what causes it.
  • Arthritis means that one or more of your child’s joints are inflamed. This means their joints can be swollen, painful and stiff, and they may not be able to move them as far as normal.

Some key points:

  • There are several types of JIA, which all cause inflammation. Symptoms can vary from day to day for no apparent reason.
  • Although some symptoms are the same as arthritis in adults, it’s usually a different condition.
  • Some young people with JIA will have very mild arthritis and their symptoms disappear after a few years, sometimes forever.
  • Between 50–60% of young people with JIA have few or no physical problems as adults.
  • You and the rest of your family can help to give your child the best possible treatment by working together with healthcare professionals to find the most suitable medications, doing the right exercises and tackling other issues as they arise. You can make a real difference to the way your child comes through JIA.

Read more about juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

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