Polyarticular JIA

Polyarticular arthritis is the second most common form of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) and affects 20% of all cases. It can affect children at a very young age, e.g. babies through to toddlers and upwards.

Polyarticular arthritis affects girls more than boys. But a particular risk for girls, especially older girls is that they may be rheumatoid factor positive. This means that they have a form of rheumatoid arthritis which can lead to damaged joints and in severe cases, a disability.

This is why it is important that these girls are treated as soon as possible to prevent this long term damage.

Presentation of polyarticular JIA

The joints of the hands and feet are affected which cause them to become stiff, swollen and painful. The affected hands make it difficult to hold an object or perform the normal range of movements. Affected feet mean that it becomes difficult to put any weight on the feet or walk.

Children with this arthritis complain of feeling unwell and may have a skin rash and a fever. This is often the case when this condition is in an active stage.

Treatment of polyarticular JIA

This is treated with medication used to treat adult forms of arthritis. These include immunosuppressant drugs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) and disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARD’s).

This will also include physiotherapy to encourage mobility and flexibility and occupational therapy to help with everyday tasks. It is important that your child feels able to take part in normal childhood activities that children do so the therapist will suggest ways of doing so.

This may mean changing the way your child does something such as tying a shoe or playing football.

The aim is to encourage them to become independent and able to socialise with their peers on a day to day level.

Prognosis of polyarticular JIA

In terms of outlook: the more joints that are affected the greater the risk of joint damage. But, this varies between children.

Around half of all children affected with this arthritis will continue with these symptoms for around 10 years or so. Only a small number of children have symptoms which persist into adulthood.

The greatest risk of joint damage is in those young people especially girls who are rheumatoid factor positive.

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