Signs and Symptoms of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

The first signs of JRA range from slight limp to a sudden high fever. Symptoms of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis often worsen (called flare) and then improve (called remission).

Common JRA symptoms include the following:

  • Eye inflammation (e.g., iritis [inflammation of the iris, which is the colored area of the eye surrounding the pupil], iridocyclitis [inflammation of the iris and the ciliary body, which is the structure underneath the iris]; in children with pauciarticular JRA)
  • Fever and rash (may appear and disappear quickly, tend to worsen in the evening)
  • Joint swelling, pain, and stiffness (especially in the morning or after naps)
  • Reluctance to use an arm or leg; reduced physical activity
  • Swelling of lymph nodes (in children with systemic-onset JRA)

Complications of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA)

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis can lead to serious complications. However, careful monitoring of the child's condition and appropriate medical care can help reduce the risks.

Children with pauciarticular JRA are at risk for developing eye diseases, such as iritis, or inflammation of the iris. This condition does not always present symptoms, so it is important for children to have regular eye exams. If left untreated, eye inflammation can lead to cataracts, calcium deposits in the cornea, glaucoma, and blindness.

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, as well as some medications prescribed to treat the condition (e.g., corticosteroids), can affect the child's growth and bone development. Children with JRA are at increased risk for developing osteoarthritis due to the disease itself, to the medications used in treatment, and to reduced physical activity.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 07 Sep 2008

Last Modified: 22 Sep 2015