Causes of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is a type of arthritis that causes persistent joint pain, swelling and stiffness in children under the age of 16, according to the Mayo Clinic. In addition, there are several types of JRA, depending on the number of joints affected, symptoms and blood tests. Some types of JRA can be mild, while others can lead to more serious complications that include growth problems and eye inflammation. Doctors do not know what causes JRA, according to Medline Plus, but have identified theories that are worth investigating.


JRA is believed to be an autoimmune disease, in which your child’s body attacks its own tissues. According to the Mayo Clinic, certain gene mutations may make a child more likely to develop JRA. Genes are the “hereditary blueprint” that gives children many characteristics shared by their parents. Therefore, if you, your spouse or others in your immediate family had JRA as a child or currently have rheumatoid arthritis, the risk will increase for your child developing JRA.


An infection may trigger the development of JRA, according to the Mayo Clinic. Viral infections activate your child’s immune system. Your immune system may begin attacking your joints after deactivating the virus. Researchers believe this occurs because your immune system may confuse signals that it uses to attack a virus with signals that are on the cells that make up your joints.


Bacteria may also be a cause of JRA, states Similar to viruses, certain bacteria may allow JRA to develop in a child that has a genetic predisposition to developing the disease. Unfortunately, exposure to bacteria cannot be avoided. However, maintaining a clean environment and teaching your child to wash his hands can reduce exposure. In addition, if JRA runs in your family, it may be best to always seek early medical treatment anytime your child has an illness to prevent a severe immune reaction that may trigger JRA.

About this Author

Jacques Courseault, M.D., began writing professionally in 2007. He is currently the fitness editor for, founder and writer of, and co-founder of Don’t Weight to Lose. He is a resident in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Dr. Courseault received his bachelor’s degree in psychology at Tulane University, and is a graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine.