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Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is when people have sore or swollen joints caused by arthritis. They are also under 18 years old when they start having it.

What is it like for siblings if their brother or sister has JIA?

Lots of siblings get on really well with their brothers and sisters who have JIA. Other siblings who have a brother or sister with JIA may notice that it takes them longer to do things. They may worry about what happens when they have flare ups as it can make them feel quite unwell. Siblings may feel that all the attention is on their brother or sister with JIA and not them.

What causes JIA?

You cannot catch JIA like a cold or the flu. No one really knows what causes JIA and it is no one’s fault. The immune system normally protects the body from illness and infections by attacking bugs. When someone has JIA, the immune system goes a little wrong and may also target the person’s joints. Fluid and protein gather in the joint which makes it swell.

What does it mean?

There are different types of JIA and how people are affected depends on their type of JIA. People with JIA can have stiff joints. Others notice that their joints don’t fully straighten out any more. Some might find their joints to be sore or swollen. Sometimes it is a parent or teacher who notices that someone is walking differently, especially if the person is still very young.

Doctors and nurses are able to give medicines to help with this problem. Some people then may go for a long time without it affecting them. However it can come back. This is called a flare-up or flare. Flare-ups just happen,  no one can tell when they will come. Some people with JIA have eye problems. Some people with JIA have a high temperature during a flare-up. Some people with JIA have problems with their tendons, the bands that connect muscles to bones. Some people with JIA might have pains in their backs. Some people with JIA have an itchy skin condition called psoriasis.

What treatment is there?

  • JIA is a condition that doctors, nurses and other health care workers can help with. People with JIA might have medicines, tablets or injections. These help them have less pain and swelling in their joints.  Some people might need eye drops.
  • People with JIA will have help and exercises to move their joints and strengthen their muscles. They need to be active.
  • Some people with JIA have special insoles for their shoes or splints on their legs to help them walk better.
  • JIA may affect how people feel at different times of the day. In the same day someone might feel quite well for a few hours and be able to run about but might then feel sore and tired even though it might just be a few minutes later.
  • People with JIA can usually do the same things as other people and they can do things like playing games and sport. Swimming is good exercise because it stretches muscles and keeps people flexible. They may sometimes need help to carry heavy things or might take longer to do things.


This information has been approved by Arthritis Care, February 2016