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Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis Symptoms - Topic Overview

The most common symptoms of all forms of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) include:

  • Joint pain and swelling that may come and go but are most often persistent. Symptoms must last for 6 weeks before a diagnosis of JIA can be made.
  • Joint stiffness that lasts longer than 1 hour in the morning.
  • Irritability, refusal to walk, or protection or guarding of a joint. You might notice your child limping or avoiding the use of a certain joint.
  • Often unpredictable changes in symptoms, from periods with no symptoms (remission) to flare-ups.

Additional symptoms vary depending on which type of JIA a child has:1, 2

Symptoms of different types of JIA
Effects of disease Joints affectedEye disease (chronic uveitis) Other features
Oligoarticular JIA (persistent or extended)
  • 1 to 4 joints affected in the first 6 months
  • Knees and ankles most commonly affected
  • Asymmetric joint symptoms (for example, one knee)
  • In persistent oligoarthritis, 4 or fewer joints are affected after the first 6 months.
  • In extended oligoarthritis, 5 or more joints are affected after the first 6 months.
  • Up to 30 out of 100 children
  • Risk is higher in children who have antinuclear antibody (ANA) in their blood
  • Rarely have whole-body symptoms
  • Uneven leg bone growth possible, resulting in muscle wasting and legs of different lengths3
Polyarticular JIA, RF-negative
  • 5 or more joints affected in the first 6 months
  • Large and small joints
  • Neck and jaw often affected
  • Symmetric joint symptoms (for example, both knees) or asymmetric
  • About 10 out of 100 children
  • Risk is higher in children who have antinuclear antibody (ANA) in their blood
  • Bone growth problems
Polyarticular JIA, RF-positive
  • 5 or more joints affected in the first 6 months
  • Often affects small joints such as those in the hands
  • Symmetric and aggressive joint symptoms
  • Rare
  • At least 2 positive tests for rheumatoid factor, at least 3 months apart
  • Rheumatoid nodules in about 10 out of 100 children
  • Bone growth problems
  • High risk of problems as an adult
Systemic JIA
  • Joint swelling and pain not necessarily present at onset; eventually affects a few or many joints
  • Rare
Enthesitis-related JIA
  • Both arthritis and enthesitis (tenderness where tendons and ligaments attach to bones)
  • Mostly legs and feet
  • Spine may be affected over time
  • Yes, but the frequency is unclear
Psoriatic JIA
  • Small and medium joints
  • Asymmetric joint symptoms
  • About 15 out of 100 children
  • Psoriasis in about 50 out of 100 children
  • May have problems with fingernails or toenails, including pitting of the nails or separation of the nail from the nail bed (onycholysis)
  • May have family history of psoriasis in a close relative

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: /2, 14 1
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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