What is Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis?

30 July 2021

It’s a common misconception that only older people suffer from arthritis. However, children can suffer from joint pain, swelling and stiffness too. According to the Arthritis Foundation, nearly 300,000 children suffer from juvenile idiopathic arthritis, the most common type of arthritis in children under the age of 16. While the condition is most common in young adolescents, it is still very rare, affecting approximately 1 in 1,000 children.

This form of arthritis is commonly cause by an auto-immune disorder, meaning your body reacts to itself, opposed to osteoarthritis, which is caused by wear-and-tear. It occurs when the immune system attacks the cells and tissues.

“Juvenile idiopathic arthritis typically affects the knee, causing persistent joint pain, swelling, and stiffness. Symptoms are more prevalent in the morning,” says James Guille, M.D., pediatric orthopaedic surgeon and President of the Pennsylvania Orthopaedic Society.

If the child is experiencing symptoms with no pre-existing history of injury, they should seek medical attention. Diagnosis of juvenile idiopathic arthritis can be difficult since joint pain and swelling are caused by many other diseases and conditions.

“The condition is diagnosed through a process of exclusions, after examining an unremarkable health history and normal x-rays. Additionally, laboratory studies can aid in confirming the diagnosis,” states Dr. Guille.

“Treatment includes guided exercises provided by a physical therapist and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications,” explains Dr. Guille. “It’s important that the child upholds an active lifestyle and takes the medications to decrease pain and minimize potential joint damage.”

If left undiagnosed, juvenile idiopathic arthritis can cause other complications, like interfering with the child’s growth and bone development. Please seek medical attention if the child is suffering from joint pain, swelling, and/or stiffness.

Dr. Guille sees patients in our Pottstown and Exton offices. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment, please call 610-792-9292.