My child has arthritis

Children with Arthritis (2)If your child has been diagnosed with arthritis, you probably have a lot of questions. My Child has Arthritis is a practical guide for parents, which aims to help you and your child understand and manage the condition. There are a number of practical and emotional challenges involved in parenting a child with any form of arthritis, which are also addressed here.

This is a condensed version. To read the full version, download our My Child has Arthritis booklet here.

In this section:

What is arthritis

Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and joint inflammation. It is often thought of as a condition that affects older people, and is most common in people aged over 50. However, it can affect people of all ages, including children.

The word ‘arthritis’ literally means inflammation of the joints. Arthritis that affects children and young people is often referred to as juvenile idiopathic arthritis, or JIA (the word ‘idiopathic’ means ‘of unknown cause’). JIA covers a range of different types of the condition. Here, we use the term ‘arthritis’ to cover all forms of arthritis in children.


It is not clear exactly what causes arthritis, and different types of arthritis may have different causes. Arthritis in children and young people is thought to stem from a combination of genetic factors and an immune system disorder.


There are various types of arthritis that affect children, but they all share a number of common symptoms, including:

  • persistent joint pain
  • inflammation
  • swelling
  • tenderness
  • stiffness

Other symptoms can include a high temperature or a skin rash that might come and go.

Any joint can be affected, but the joints most commonly affected are in the knees, hands and feet. One joint can be affected, or several. Most people with arthritis will experience problems and pain in specific joints, although some feel more generally unwell.

Arthritis affects different people in very different ways. It is a fluctuating condition, meaning that its effects can vary from day to day. Typically, there will be times when the symptoms of arthritis improve or even disappear (referred to as ‘going into remission’), and times when they worsen (known as ‘flare-ups’).


There is no single test to diagnose arthritis. Your child’s doctor or specialist will examine your child, looking at the location of pain, swelling or tenderness. They will also ask questions about any restricted movement, and about your child’s general health and medical history.

Your child may be sent for blood tests and x-rays. They may also be sent for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerised tomography (CT) or ultrasound scans. The results will help to confirm a diagnosis and rule out other possible causes of your child’s symptoms.