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Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis - Topic Overview

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), formerly called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) or juvenile chronic arthritis (JCA), is a disease that affects children age 16 and younger. It causes inflamed, swollen, stiff, and often painful joints. JIA may affect one or more joints and can cause a generalized illness.

The cause of JIA is unknown. Most experts believe it may be caused by a combination of the following things:

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  • An overly active immune system that inappropriately attacks joint tissues, as if they were foreign substances. Viral or bacterial infections are a suspected trigger of the autoimmune process.
  • Genetic factors that make a child's immune system more likely to react inappropriately

Common symptoms of JIA include:

  • Joint pain and swelling that may come and go but are most often persistent.
  • Joint stiffness 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.

A child with JIA will likely be treated with a combination of medicines and physical therapy. The goals of medical treatment are to reduce your child's joint pain and to prevent disability.

For more information, see the topic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: June 05, 2012
    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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