What is Juvenile Arthritis?

Nearly 300,000 children have been diagnosed with some form of juvenile arthritis*

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), one form of juvenile arthritis, is actually quite prevalent, affecting more than 50,000 children in the United States alone. JIA is often referred to as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) in the United States. Other specific names and forms of juvenile arthritis include:


  • systemic onset JIA or Still’s disease
  • oligoarticular JIA (affecting fewer than 5 joints)
  • polyarticular JIA (affecting five or more joints)
  • enthesitis-related arthritis
  • juvenile psoriatic arthritis


When juvenile arthritis first shows its symptoms in a child’s body, many parents write off swollen joints and fever as a flu bug, or think that a sudden rash might have occurred from an allergic reaction. The symptoms might even recede slightly before showing up again, sometimes delaying diagnosis for quite some time. After all, who expects a small child to have arthritis?

What is juvenile arthritis?

Most people don’t know that kids get arthritis. A child’s immune system is not fully formed until about age 18; so an “autoimmune” form of arthritis is especially aggressive in children, compromising their ability fight normal diseases and leaving them open to complications that may affect their eyes, bone growth, etc.

Get more juvenile arthritis information with your free fact sheet!

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Signs and Symptoms of Juvenile Arthritis
  • Joint pain
  • Swelling
  • Fever
  • Stiffness
  • Rash
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Inflammation of the eye
  • Difficulty with daily living activities such as walking, dressing, and playing
What is Juvenile Arthritis and why is JIA (formerly JRA) different?

Different forms of arthritis have varying life spans and degree of symptoms, but JIA is different – it’s an autoimmune disease that has the body actually warring with itself in its efforts to recover. While juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, much like the adult version of rheumatoid arthritis, recent arthritis research shows that JIA stands alone, independent in how it actually attacks and affects a child’s body.


Juvenile arthritis normally appears in children as young as 6 months and as old as 18 years. Young adults still suffer the pain of the juvenile forms of arthritis. Joint pain, reddened joints and swelling that simply refuses to dissipate are the key symptoms. Rheumatologists are finding that the number of joints affected has a parallel connection to the severity of the disease and the likelihood of achieving total remission.

What is ANRF doing?

Here at the Arthritis National Research Foundation, we focus part of our research effort on juvenile arthritis, even awarding a $100,000 grant yearly – The Kelly Award – to a researcher focused solely on juvenile arthritis treatments and cures. Thanks to your continued tax-deductible donations and research sponsorship, our grant recipients are making significant progress in their research.


The second Kelly Award recipient, Dr. Altan Ercan at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, is studying the role of the immune system during the cause and tissue destruction phases of JIA (JRA). His work may lead to a better understanding of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and provide novel targets for new therapies.


The third recipient, Dr. Scott Canna, who is now at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, is Macrophage Activation Syndrome (MAS). MAS is a life-threatening complication of a number of rheumatic illnesses, particularly systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis. MAS manifests as the rapid onset of severe systemic inflammation. Dr. Canna’s work hopes to better understand MAS and its triggers to help prevent inflammation.

Meet The Children

Over our 40-plus years, we’ve gotten to know many children with juvenile arthritis – from Chloe, who first showed symptoms at 12 months of age, to ANRF Board Director Kelly Rouba, who has lived over 30 years with the disease. Even Pro Golfer Kristy McPherson was diagnosed at the age of 11 with systemic onset JIA, Still’s disease, which has since transitioned to rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and she is a strong supporter of ANRF’s juvenile arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis research as a spokesperson and Cure Arthritis Ambassador.

Learn more about the Kelly Award and stories of children living with juvenile arthritis.

With your charitable donations, you can help us continue the research and advances that help JRA kids live the happy, healthy lives they deserve. If you do not have the funds to donate to juvenile arthritis research please visit our take action to help cure arthritis page for more ways to get involved and raise awareness.


Make a tax-deductible donation today. Use the drop-down menu to designate your donation for juvenile arthritis research.


* statistics from the CDC, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, www.CDC.gov

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