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About 12,000 children in the UK under the age of 16 have a form of arthritis. Most kinds of childhood arthritis come under the general heading of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).
JIA involves inflammation, pain and swelling in one or more joints for at least six weeks. You may hear it referred to as juvenile arthritis. The causes are unknown.
The outlook for most children with JIA is good. Although some children will develop joint damage, the majority get better and grow up to lead ordinary lives.
Oligoarticular JIA is the most common kind of childhood arthritis and affects four or fewer joints in the body. Symptoms are swollen, painful joints, particularly the knees and/or ankles. Eye problems are quite common and specialist eye checks are needed.
Download our parents' leaflet on oligoarticular JIA.
Polyarticular JIA is another kind of juvenile arthritis and affects many joints (more than five). It usually starts either before seven years of age, or later in childhood. As well as pain and stiffness in joints other symptoms include tiredness and eye inflammation.
Download our parents' leaflet on polyarticular JIA.
Systemic onset JIA is a type of arthritis that begins with systemic symptoms such as fever, rashes, lethargy and enlarged glands. Early signs are often mistaken for an infection. Other symptoms include joint and muscle pain, skin rash and tiredness. The most common age for the condition to start is before five years.
Download our parents' leaflet on systemic JIA.
Treatment for children with arthritis is usually much the same as for adults, but the problems which crop up in everyday life can be very different. Children with arthritis need to lead as ordinary and full a life as they can. Keeping school and social life going is extremely important, although there may be a need to find some alternative social activities.
Exercise is especially helpful and a lot of children with arthritis benefit enormously from swimming. Above all, young people need to be part of their own age group and not be seen as different.
Letting young people with arthritis develop their own independent coping skills is vital, while giving them plenty of support within the family. It is all too easy for families to be overprotective. Most young people can compete intellectually with their peers and develop relationships as they move towards adulthood.
Read Arthritis Care's information for young people and their families.
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