What is Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis Uveitis?

Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is an inflammatory disease of the joints that affects children under the age of 16.

JIA is an autoimmune disease. In JIA, the body’s healthy joints are attacked by white blood cells (the cells that normally fight disease). This causes inflammation of the joints. It can make walking difficult. Fever and rashes are also common symptoms. JIA is a chronic (ongoing) disease. This means that there is no cure—but there is treatment.

How does JIA affect the eye?

Some children with JIA will also get inflammation of the eye. This is called uveitis. Uveitis occurs when the uvea becomes inflamed. There are different types of uveitis, but JIA mainly affects the front of the uvea (anterior uveitis).

What are symptoms of uveitis from JIA?

Symptoms of uveitis include:

  • redness
  • pain
  • light sensitivity
  • blurry vision

In up to half of patients, there are no obvious symptoms in the beginning. In these children, once symptoms appear, damage to the eye and vision loss may have already happened. This is why all children should see an ophthalmologist right after they are diagnosed with JIA.

If a child is not diagnosed and treated early, uveitis can cause:

  • cataract (clouding of the eye’s normally clear lens)
  • band keratopathy (discoloration of the cornea)
  • glaucoma (high pressure inside the eye that can lead to vision loss)
  • cystoid macular edema (swelling in the center of the retina, the light sensitive tissue in the back of the eye)