Skip to Main Content

We have a new app!

Take the Access library with you wherever you go—easy access to books, videos, images, podcasts, personalized features, and more.

Download the Access App here: iOS and Android. Learn more here!



  • Arthritis, involving pain, swelling, warmth, tenderness, morning stiffness, and/or decreased range of motion of one or more joints, lasting at least 6 weeks.

  • May have associated systemic manifestations, including fever, rash, uveitis, serositis, anemia, and fatigue.

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is characterized by chronic arthritis in one or more joints for at least 6 weeks. There are four main subtypes of JIA: (1) oligoarticular, (2) polyarticular, (3) systemic, and (4) enthesitis associated. The exact cause of JIA is not known, but there is substantial evidence that it is an autoimmune process with genetic susceptibility factors.

Clinical Findings

A. Symptoms and Signs

The most common type of JIA is the oligoarticular form, which constitutes approximately 40%–60% of patients and is characterized by arthritis of four or fewer joints. This type often affects medium to large joints. Because the arthritis is often asymmetrical, children may develop a leg-length discrepancy in which the involved leg may grow longer due to increased blood flow and growth factors. Systemic features are uncommon except for inflammation in the eye. Approximately 20% of children with oligoarticular arthritis develop insidious, asymptomatic uveitis, which may cause blindness if untreated. The activity of the eye disease does not correlate with that of the arthritis. Therefore, routine ophthalmologic screening with slit-lamp examination must be performed at 3-month intervals when the antinuclear antibody (ANA) test is positive, and at 6-month intervals if the ANA test is negative, for at least 4 years after the onset of arthritis, as this is the period of highest risk.

Polyarticular disease, which is defined as arthritis involving five or more joints, accounts for 20%–35% of JIA. Both large and small joints are involved, typically in a symmetrical pattern. Systemic features are not prominent, although low-grade fever, fatigue, rheumatoid nodules, and anemia may be present. This group is further divided into rheumatoid factor (RF)–positive and RF-negative disease. The former resembles adult rheumatoid arthritis with more chronic, destructive arthritis.

The systemic form comprises 10%–15% of patients with JIA. The arthritis can involve any number of joints and affects both large and small joints but may be absent at disease onset. One of the classic features is a high fever, often as high as 39°C–40°C, typically occurring one to two times per day. In between fever spikes, the temperature usually returns to normal or subnormal. Around 80%–90% patients have a characteristic evanescent, salmon-pink macular rash that is most prominent on pressure areas and when fever is present. Other systemic features that may be present include hepatosplenomegaly, lymphadenopathy, leukocytosis, and serositis.

Enthesitis-associated arthritis is most common in males, older than 10 years of age, and is typically associated with lower extremity, large joint arthritis. The hallmark of this form is inflammation of tendinous insertions (enthesitis), such as the ...

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.