What effects can JIA have on my body?

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Sometimes having arthritis can cause problems with everyday activities and can have an effect on your general health.

Varying symptoms

The symptoms of your arthritis can vary from day to day, depending on whether it’s:

  • active – joints are inflamed, warm to the touch, swollen and painful
  • inactive – joints no longer feel warm or swollen, although they might still be painful and stiff.

Flare-ups (where the arthritis gets worse) can happen after viral infections, stress, changes in medication or sometimes for no apparent reason. Flare-ups can reduce your appetite, may cause anaemia, and make you feel ‘run down’ and tired.

Eye inflammation

Uveitis is inflammation of the eye and this can happen with JIA. If it develops and persists it can cause blurred vision or even loss of vision. The most common type of uveitis with JIA is chronic anterior uveitis, which doesn’t cause pain or a red eye and may only be picked up by frequent checks by an ophthalmologist.

It’s really important that you tell your doctor or rheumatology nurse about any changes you notice in your eyes.

Effect on puberty

Puberty can be a worrying time for many young people, but it’s important to remember that for most young people with JIA, the condition won’t affect puberty.

Sometimes arthritis or some medications (e.g. steroids) can make the changes of puberty happen later. In girls, periods can become irregular if your arthritis is very active. Some of the medications, such as methotrexate, can have the same effect.

If you’re worried about how you look or about any changes happening to your body try talking it over with your family, friends, school nurse or rheumatology team.

Growth problems

You may be worrying that you aren’t as tall as your friends, or about how tall you’ll be as an adult. For most people arthritis won’t affect how you grow, but sometimes having severe arthritis and/or being on steroid tablets can slow your growth. If active arthritis is left untreated in a joint, the growth of that particular joint can be affected, so it’s important to get control of the arthritis before that happens.

But remember – if your growth is slower than normal it can often catch up later, especially when your arthritis is well controlled.

Dental care

Regular dental check-ups are especially important if you have JIA, as young people with the condition tend to have more trouble with their teeth – partly because of difficulty with brushing. If your arthritis has affected your jaw you may need orthodontic advice.

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Growing up with arthritis

David Lewis

David Lewis, aged 29, has had severe juvenile idiopathic arthritis since he was a child. Despite his disabilities he leads a full life, and is a keen supporter of Arthritis Research UK. He told his story to Arthritis Today.

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