Symptoms of JIA

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Introduction

The information that follows is an attempt to guide parents or other concerned adults in how to tell their own particular story about their child to a doctor.

These concerns may only be an uncomfortable instinctive feeling that all is not quite right. It is very likely you do not feel that any one symptom or problem is sufficiently ‘troublesome’ or would mean very much if that is your only concern. However, it may be that when you look through the lists there could be one or two (or more) situations that match with your own experiences.

There are many times during a child’s physical, social and emotional development when parents and carers have concerns about them for a multitude of reasons. Many of these ups and downs are part of normal development, for example suffering from childhood illnesses, trips and tumbles, falling out with friends and so on. 

Mom with little daughterWe hope that the following three sections divided into what to consider in very young, young and older children will allow you to jot down any similarities that you have observed or feel to be correct in order to be more specific and detailed in any explanation you put to a doctor.

Please remember that most childhood problems are common, are known, and can be successfully managed. This website is developed to help parents whose child or young person has been diagnosed with the juvenile form of arthritis. This condition is rare (approximately 1 child in every 1000 is diagnosed with juvenile arthritis) and most people do not know it exists, unlike childhood diabetes which has almost the same incidence.

Our aim is to help parents ‘tell their whole story’ with all relevant information’ to their GP so that referral to a specialist centre can be arranged. The specialist will expect to see any child whose symptoms may be the start of juvenile arthritis and have lasted on and off for around 6 weeks because early diagnosis and treatment is vitally important.

Early treatment is the key to successful control of childhood arthritis.

The following tables are broken up into 3 age categories. Click on these links to skip to the relevant table:

Symptoms in babies and very young children

Is your child in pain? Young child

  • Can you see any evidence to explain crying or can he/she tell you? 
  • Is it difficult to comfort your child? 
  • Has this happened before; many times? 
  • Is he/she fretful? 
  • Is he/she slow to get moving and using joints on waking/stiffness? 

Has expected development slowed down?

  • requesting to be carried
  • delayed crawling/walking
  • Have you noticed your child using their joints in a different way? 
    eg using knuckles to help standing from the floor rather than wrists
    (when flat of hand is normally used to push up)
  • not wanting cuddles
  • regression in use of potty

Is your child fretful/unhappy?

  • unexplained weight loss
  • obvious signs of child being miserable/listless
  • poor sleep pattern
  • waking up upset

Do you see any physical signs? 

  • swollen/hot joint(s)
  • swollen glands
  • fever – may come & go
  • rash –   may come & go 
  • anything else

Symptoms in young children

Child at laptop

Is your child in pain?

  • Can you see any evidence to explain crying or can he/she tell you?
  • Is it difficult to comfort your child?
  • Has this happened before; many times?
  • Is he/she slow to get moving and using joints on waking/stiffness? 

Is your child unhappy?

  • Is there unexplained weight loss?
  • Can you see obvious signs of your child being miserable/listless?
  • Is he/she irritable, moaning, angry?
  • Is he/she reluctant to join in with ordinary activities?
  • Do you notice his/her tiredness, weariness, low energy?
  • Is he/she not wanting to go to school?

Do you see any physical signs? 

  • swollen/hot joint(s)
  • swollen glands
  • fever – may come & go
  • rash –   may come & go
  • anything else

Symptoms in pre-teen and teenage children

Is your young person in pain?Teenage girl

  • Can you see this, has he/she told you
  • Is he/she complaining of:
    - groin strain
    - sore ankle(s)/wrist(s)
    - stiff, swollen knee(s)/ankle(s), wrist(s)
    - really sore toe(s), finger(s)
    - achy neck
  • Does he/she have common cold/flu-like symptoms?
  • Has this happened before; many times?
  • Is he/she slow to get moving and using joints on waking/stiff?

Do you see any physical signs? 

  • swollen/hot joint(s)
  • swollen glands
  • fever – may come & go
  • rash –   may come & go  
  • anything else

Do you feel you have an unhappy young person?

  • Is there unexplained weight loss? 
  • Are there obvious signs of being miserable/listless? 
  • Is there a reluctance to participate? 
  • Do you feel he/she is becoming isolated? 
  • Is he/she irritable, moaning, stroppy, angry? 
  • Is he/she not wanting to go to school? 
  • Do you notice tiredness, weariness, low energy? = fatigue 
  • Do you feel there might be a physical cause for this interference with daily life or do you need to consider 
    bullying or other emotional causes?

References available on request 

By retired rheumatology clinical nurse specialist Nicky Kennedy BSc RN QN HV

Original article: 06/10/2016
Reviewed: N/A 
Next review due: 06/10/2019

Images:  
Graphic in Introduction: Love vector designed by Freepik
Image of teenage girl: People photograph designed by Pressfoto - Freepik.com