Common Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis Questions
What is juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA)?
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is arthritis that causes joint inflammation and stiffness for more than 6 weeks in a child of 16 years of age or less. Any joint can be affected, and inflammation may limit the mobility of affected joints.
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis was previously known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA).
What causes JIA?
Researchers aren't sure the precise cause of juvenile idiopathic arthritis. They do know that JIA is an autoimmune disorder, which means that the body mistakenly identifies some of its own cells and tissues as foreign. The immune system, which normally helps to fight off harmful, foreign substances such as bacteria or viruses, begins to attack healthy cells and tissues. The result is inflammation—marked by redness, heat, pain, and swelling.
What are the nonsurgical treatment options for juvenile idipoathic arthritis?
For juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), the main goals of treatment are to preserve a high level of physical and social functioning and maintain a good quality of life. To achieve these goals, doctors recommend treatments to reduce swelling, maintain full movement in the affected joints, relieve pain, and identify, treat, and prevent complications.
Most children with JIA need medication and physical therapy to reach these goals.
Possible medications include nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), biologic response modifiers, anti-TNF (tumor recrosis factor) inhibitors, and/or non-TNF biologics.
Will my child need surgery?
For children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, surgery is rarely needed. Usually, no-surgical treatments, including medications and physical therapy, are sufficient.
However, there are a few scenarios where surgery may be recommended:
- Spinal deformity: In severe cases, the way JIA affects the joints in the spine can cause it to curve too much. Surgery can address this deformity.
- Spinal instability: JIA can make it more difficult for the spine's joints to move properly, and that can lead to spinal instability—when the spine doesn't function as it should to cushion movements and support weight.
- Nerve problems: Depending on how and where JIA affects spinal joints, nerve problem (eg, pinched nerve) can develop. This can cause a lot of pain, but it can also cause weakness, tingling, a burning sensation, and muscle spasms.
There are several types of surgeries the surgeon can use to correct the spinal problem caused by JIA. He or she will make the best recommendation based on the individual case.