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What Is Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis?

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Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is the most common childhood arthritis. It's also called juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) and juvenile chronic arthritis (JCA).

What Is Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is joint inflammation and stiffness for more than 6 weeks in a child or teen aged 16 or younger. Inflammation causes redness, swelling, warmth, and soreness in the joints. But many children with JRA do not complain of joint pain.

The condition can affect any joint, and it may limit how well those joints work.

What Causes It?

JRA is an autoimmune disorder. This means that the immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues, causing inflammation.

Researchers don't know exactly why it happens. They suspect that it's a two-step process. First, something in a child’s genes makes them more likely to develop JRA. Then something else, such as a virus, triggers the disease.

How Is Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis Different from Adult RA?

The main difference is that some people with JRA outgrow the illness. Adults with RA usually have lifelong symptoms. Studies show that by adulthood, JRA symptoms disappear in more than half of all affected children.

What Are the Symptoms?

Besides joint pain, JRA may cause chronic fever and anemia. In some people, it can also affect the heart, lungs, eyes, and nervous system.

Flare-ups may last for several weeks. Later on, their symptoms may be less severe. Symptoms of JRA may include:

  • Fevers of 103 F or higher
  • Pink rash that comes and goes
  • Eye inflammation
  • Joint pain or stiffness
  • Limping
  • Joint swelling
  • Being less active
  • Trouble with movements using the hands or fingers, like handwriting or coloring
  • Problems with bone development and growth

Are There Different Types of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Yes. There are three kinds of JRA. Each type is based on the number of joints involved, the symptoms, and the presence of certain antibodies in the blood.

  1. Pauciarticular JRA

Pauciarticular (paw-see-are-tick-you-lar) means that four or fewer joints are involved. This is the most common form. About half of all children with JRA have this type.

This type typically affects large joints, such as the knees. Girls under age 8 are most likely to develop it.

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