Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is an inflammation of the joints that’s characterized by swelling, heat, and pain. It’s the most prevalent form of juvenile arthritis (arthritis in kids) and one of the most undertreated childhood conditions. Formerly called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (or JRA), juvenile idiopathic arthritis affects about 300,000 children in the United States.

At Nemours, we use the most advanced therapies to treat kids with JIA and we’re working hard on the front lines of research to develop new treatments that offer new hope for you and your child.

Learn More About Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

JIA can affect children as young as 6 months. It comes in several forms, all completely different from adult forms of arthritis. Most children respond well to medication to control swelling and pain, and are encouraged to exercise and play.

Although the specific cause of JIA is not yet known (that’s what “idiopathic” means), research suggests it could be an autoimmune disorder. This means the body mistakenly reacts to healthy cells as if they were germs, bacteria or other invaders. This process damages the healthy cells, causing the inflammation and pain that are often symptoms of JIA.

Important Facts About JIA
  • The precise cause of JIA is unknown, but research suggests that it may occur when a child who’s genetically prone to the condition comes in contact with an environmental factor (like a virus or bacteria) that triggers the immune system.
  • JIA is not contagious or hereditary. So there’s nothing you or your child did or didn’t do to cause it.
  • JIA is distinctly different from adult forms of arthritis, most notably rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
  • A confirmed JIA diagnosis requires ruling out many other possible conditions, including infection, endocrine disorders, cancers and other rheumatic disorders. It can take 6 weeks or more to confirm.
  • There is no cure for JIA yet, but the inflammation that causes the pain can be controlled with medication. It’s important to continue taking the medication even if your child doesn’t complain about pain.