What are the Symptoms?
When you have juvenile arthritis, your body’s immune system is confused. It’s supposed to attack outside invaders, like germs, to keep you healthy. Instead, it’s attacking your own body, which can actually damage your health. Symptoms are signals from your body to let you know about the problem.
The symptoms of juvenile arthritis include swelling, pain, warmth and stiffness in your joints. But you might also have symptoms that don’t seem to have anything to do with juvenile arthritis, like a decreased appetite, a rash, an unexplained fever or fatigue.
Some of the symptoms of juvenile arthritis are quite dramatic. But they probably won’t stick around to bother you all the time. Your symptoms can change from day to day. They can even change during the same day. So while you might wake up feeling feverish and sick, you could feel just fine a few hours later.
Although they all cause joint problems, different types of juvenile arthritis have different types of symptoms.
- Oligoarthritis (AH-lih-go-arth-RIGH-tus) affects one to four joints. It usually develops in a large joint, like the knee or ankle. Oligoarthritis sometimes causes eye inflammation, also called uveitis (you-vee-EYE-tus). It’s more common in girls than boys.
- Polyarthritis (PAH-lee-arth-RIGH-tus) affects five or more joints, usually the same joints on both sides of the body, like both knees, or both wrists. It can attack large and small joints, and tends to affect the neck and jaw, too. People with polyarthritis may have a low fever, bumps under the skin—called rheumatoid (ROOM-a-toyd) nodules—and anemia, a low red blood cell count that causes fatigue. It’s more common in girls than boys.
- Systemic (sis-TEM-ik) arthritis affects the whole body. It can cause inflammation in areas besides joints, such as the spleen. It can also irritate the coverings of the lungs and heart. Systemic arthritis can cause a high fever and a pinkish rash on the chest and thighs, along with joint symptoms. It affects boys and girls equally.
- Enthesitis (EN-the-SIGH-tus) related arthritis causes inflammation of the entheses—places where muscles and tendons attach to bones. It can cause pain and swelling in the heels, toes, fingers, elbows, lower back and chest. It’s more common in boys than girls.
- Psoriatic (SOAR-ee-at-tik) arthritis causes skin conditions in addition to joint problems. A scaly rash is often found behind the ears or on the eyelids, elbows, knees or scalp. It can also cause pitting and ridging on the fingernails.
- Arthritis that lasts for at least six weeks, but doesn’t match any of these descriptions, can also be a form of juvenile arthritis.