Juvenile arthritis (JA) describes multiple types of arthritis that begin before a patient turns 16. These symptoms vary in type, when they first appear and their severity, depending on the diagnosis.

One patient is unlikely to experience the exact symptoms as another, and the range and severity of symptoms can vary on a day-to-day basis. The disease can also go into remission, followed by flare-ups, when symptoms return.

Joint symptoms

The most common symptom in JA is persistent pain, swelling and stiffness of the joints. The knees are most frequently affected, though swelling can be difficult to identify at first, especially in smaller joints.

These symptoms can manifest as a limp or clumsiness, as the patient may not have a full range of motion or may be unconsciously avoiding pain. Joint symptoms are typically worse after a period of prolonged inactivity, such as in the morning or after a nap.

Joints may be warm to the touch, and may not be able to fully extend or bend completely.

Eye symptoms

Multiple types of JA cause the eyes to become inflamed — a condition called uveitis. Acute uveitis can be identified by redness and pain in the eyes, whereas chronic anterior uveitis, the most common form seen in JA, lacks obvious symptoms and can usually be diagnosed only in an eye examination.

Eye inflammation can be very serious if left untreated, as it may cause cataracts and glaucoma, which can lead to blindness. Frequent check-ups are crucial to monitor the eyes of JA patients.

Type-specific symptoms

More severe types of JA can affect the entire body. This can result in swelling of the lymph nodes near the neck, underarms and groin. Certain organs such as the spleen, the liver and the covering of the heart can become inflamed.

Other symptoms

JA often causes rashes and fever, sometimes even before joint problems. Other common symptoms include fatigue, difficulty sleeping, decreased appetite and weight loss. Changes in sleep patterns can also affect mood.

In some cases, JA can cause developmental problems. For example, uneven bone growth in affected joints can cause limbs to be asymmetrical lengths.

Note: Juvenile Arthritis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.