What Is Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis?
Arthritis is a disease that causes swelling, stiffness, and pain in a person’s joints. Specifically, arthritis consists of inflammation of the synovial membrane that lines the joints. Arthritis is most common among older adults, making movement more difficult and painful as they get older. However, it can also strike children.
The most common type of arthritis experienced by those under the age of 17 is known as juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). You may also hear it referred to as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA). There are seven types of JIA, depending upon how many and which types of joints are affected.
Doctors still aren’t sure what causes JIA. Some believe it may be genetic. It’s possible that an environmental factor, such as a virus, could trigger JIA in children genetically predisposed to develop the condition. Fortunately, JIA isn’t contagious, so you can’t catch it from someone who has it.
JIA is an autoimmune disease, which means the immune system attacks healthy cells rather than germs, such as bacteria and viruses. The chemicals released by the immune system cause the swelling, stiffness, and pain associated with arthritis.
There is no cure for JIA, but it can be treated with medicines that fight pain and inflammation. Physical therapy can also be helpful. Stretching, staying active, and taking warm baths can also help soothe aching joints.
As a chronic condition, JIA can last for several months to many years. Fortunately, many children eventually outgrow JIA with no permanent joint damage as adults. Others may continue to experience problems that require continued treatment as adults.