It is commonly diagnosed between ages 1 and 4 years, but can occur at any age.
The cells in the body that the immune system attacks, are in the connective tissues that make up the lining of the joints (synovium). As these types of cells also exist outside of the joints, arthritis can affect other parts of the body as well. Some possible causes of the disease include:
There is no single test to diagnose juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). Instead, it involves a number of steps. These include:
Some tests may be ongoing or have to be repeated several times. This helps the doctor to look for changes in your child’s symptoms over a time period. If JIA is suspected, your child should be referred to a rheumatologist, ideally a specialist in paediatric (childhood) arthritis, who would confirm the diagnosis and then start treatment.
Reaching a diagnosis can take time, and the waiting period can be very frustrating. This is understandable, but it's important to keep on with the process until the diagnosis is made. The rheumatologist can then make sure your child receives the best treatment to manage the symptoms and reduce the potential damage caused by JIA.
At some point, your child will be asked to have a number of tests as part of the diagnosis or management of the arthritis. There is nothing to be alarmed about, these are routine. Some of the more common tests include:
The outlook for children with JIA is usually very positive:
There is no way to predict which outcome your child will have. Some forms of JIA have a greater chance of permanent remission (where the condition will not return). Your child’s rheumatologist can give you more information about this.
Good medical care is vital for all children with any form of JIA. Good overall care, both during and between flares:
Arthritis-affected joints that are not kept mobile can stiffen into abnormal positions and then will no longer work properly. This can also lead to joint damage and severely restrict your child’s ability to do most normal daily activities for the rest of their life.
A small number of children with JIA may need to have surgery if the damage to their joints becomes too severe or restrictive. This may include joint replacements, joint fusions, the realignment or reconstruction of damaged joints and surgery to release joints that have ‘frozen’. Your child’s rheumatologist can give you more information.
Children who have JIA are also more likely to experience a thinning of their bones as they get older. This is a condition called osteoporosis and it results in the bones being susceptible to breaking or fracturing.
Arthritis New Zealand Kids with arthritis New Zealand Arthritis information