Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Tests Recommended For Juvenile Arthritis

Submitted on March 27, 2012

The term arthritis is generally used when referring to around 100 different types of conditions that lead to severe pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints. This condition can affect one or multiple joints in a person. Most people believe that arthritis is a disease that is only seen in the elderly. However, this is not really true, as several children also suffer from this chronic disease.

Juvenile Arthritis is a term used to describe all types of arthritis that affect children and teens, who are below the age of 16.

Some of the other terms used for this condition in children include juvenile chronic arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and Still's disease. Studies indicate that 1 in a 1000 children suffer with some form of juvenile arthritis or the other. There are several different types of juvenile arthritis found in children, some of which include:

  • Oligoarticular arthritis, which usually starts between the ages of 2 and 4.
  • Enthesitis-related arthritis, which develops during adolescence or late childhood.
  • Psoriatic arthritis, which begins at around 10 years or so.
  • Poly-articular arthritis, which can start between the ages of 1 and 12.
  • Systemic onset arthritis, the least common type of arthritis in kids.
  • Unclassified arthritis, where the condition does not fit any of the other types of juvenile arthritis.

Juvenile arthritis occurs when there is inflammation in the child's joints, which leads to joint damage. It is an autoimmune disease, which means that a child's immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy tissues in his or her body. The exact factors that lead to arthritis in children and teens are still not clear. When a person suffers from this condition, the immune system mainly targets the lining of the joints. This joint damage could limit the child's range of motion, decreasing flexibility. The child may not be able to participate in several activities because of this.

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for juvenile arthritis, though with the right treatment, the pain and discomfort can be reduced and the quality of the child's life can be improved to a great extent. If left unchecked or untreated, juvenile arthritis can lead to serious complications, such as eye inflammation and growth problems.

Tests Recommended

Juvenile arthritis can be a bit difficult to diagnose, as joint pain can be caused by other factors too. Therefore, as soon as parents notice the symptoms of this condition, they need to ensure that the child undergoes a few medical tests, to determine the possible causes. Given below are some of the possible juvenile arthritis tests that may be recommended by the doctor:

  • An erythrocyte sedimentation rate test, which is a type of blood test to check the speed at which the red blood cells settle at the bottom of the tube. This test is also useful in classifying the type of juvenile arthritis as well as the degree of inflammation the child is suffering from.
  • Antinuclear antibody test, also a type of blood test to check the levels of protein produced by the immune system.
  • Rheumatoid factor test, to check levels of antibodies found in the blood.

In several cases, no significant abnormalities are found, even when the child is suffering from juvenile arthritis. Therefore, doctors also advise patients to undergo imaging tests, such as x rays and CT scans. In some instances, the doctor may conduct a joint fluid removal test, where a needle is used to extract a sample of fluid from the swollen joint. This fluid sample is then sent to a lab for testing.


Juvenile arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, which means that it occurs when the immune system of a person's body attacks its healthy cells in error. The exact reasons why this happens to some people and not the others are not quite clear. However, researchers believe that the main juvenile arthritis causes include heredity and environmental factors. However, there is no scientific evidence to prove that a child could suffer from this condition because of exposure to toxins, eating certain foods, allergies and vitamin or nutritional deficiencies. Juvenile arthritis is not contagious and cannot spread from one child to the other, even after close physical contact. Studies are still being conducted to determine what the possible causes of juvenile arthritis could be.


There are several signs and symptoms that a child will experience when suffering from this condition. Given below are some of the some of the most commonly seen juvenile arthritis symptoms:

  • Stiffness: This symptom usually becomes evident in the form of clumsiness, as the child may not be able to grasp objects or walk properly.
  • Swelling: You may notice slight or even severe swelling in the small joints of the hands and feet and especially in the knees.
  • Pain: Not all children complain of pain, but parents often notice their children limping, especially after being inactive for a long period of time, or when they wake up in the morning.
  • Fever: Parents may notice frequent bouts of fever in their children, along with a general feeling of being unwell.
  • Others: In some cases, children may have anemia caused by this condition. In some children juvenile arthritis is characterized by a rash on the skin.

Since there are different types of juvenile arthritis, the signs and symptoms for each type may vary a bit. Given below are some of the specific symptoms for the different types of arthritis in children:

  • Oligo-articular arthritis: Risks of an eye condition known as uvetis, which involves inner eye inflammation.
  • Enthesitis-related arthritis: The pain, tenderness, swelling and stiffness usually targets the large joints of the enthese, spine and leg.
  • Psoriatic arthritis: Usually follows a skin condition.
  • Poly-articular arthritis: Affects at least five joints or more in the body.
  • Systemic onset arthritis: Has an adverse effect not just on the joints, but also on the other organs, systems and the skin. It often leads to a skin rash and fever.

As soon as any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above become evident, it is important for parents to make sure that the child is checked by a health care provider, to determine the possible causes of the condition.


Juvenile Arthritis treatment is mainly aimed at helping a child deal with the pain and discomfort and maintaining normal levels of social and physical activity. For this, health experts usually advise parents to try a combination of various strategies, which could include medication, therapies or even surgery.

Many children get all the relief the need just by using pain killers. On the other hand, some doctors prescribe medicines that are designed to restrict the progress of the disease. Some of the typical medications used in juvenile arthritis treatment include:

  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs)
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF) blockers
  • Corticosteroids

In order to maintain flexibility in the joints, your doctor may recommend that the child work with a physical therapist on a regular basis. This will also help the child maintain range of motion and improve muscle tone. Several therapists advise children to use splints or other supports that protect their joints and maintain their functioning.

In case the child does not see much improvement after using medication or therapy, the doctor may recommend surgery. However, this treatment option is only used in case of severe instances of juvenile arthritis.

Apart from conventional methods of treatment, children can use self-care techniques at home, to minimize the effects of the condition. These include:

  • Following a healthy diet, which is high in calcium and other essential nutrients.
  • Maintaining an appropriate body weight to reduce pressure on the joints.
  • Applying heat and cold therapy, to reduce the stiffness and increase flexibility.
  • Getting an adequate amount of exercise each day.