Published on 18 November 2014
A large proportion of young people affected by juvenile idiopathic arthritis will continue to experience continued symptoms and disease progression for several decades, according to a new study.
Carried out by the University of Oslo in Norway, the study aimed to describe arthritic activity for 30 years after disease onset in a previously-studied cohort of juvenile idiopathic arthritis patients, while also examining predictors of long-term active disease.
A total of 176 patients who had first been referred between 1980 and 1985 and re-examined 15 and 23 years after onset were invited to participate in the trial, with each subject assessed via questionnaires. Patients with signs of active disease at 15 years or later also came to a clinical re-examination. Disease activity was assessed according to various standardised criteria.
Results published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases revealed that 41 per cent of the juvenile idiopathic arthritis patients still suffered from active disease or were on medication after 30 years, with 28 per cent reporting a high symptom state.
Moreover, 70 per cent of the patients were in the same category of disease activity after 15 and 30 years, with remission rates and patient-reported health status shown to be broadly similar at both of these junctures.
The data demonstrates the potentially serious long-term impact of the condition, which affects patients under the age of 16. The term idiopathic means the cause of the disease is unknown.
Common symptoms of juvenile idiopathic arthritis include joint pain and swelling, eye inflammation, growth issues or dental health problems.
A spokeswoman for Arthritis Research UK commented: "This study shows that for many people with juvenile idiopathic arthritis, the condition doesn't burn out or wear off as they grow into adulthood, but continues to be something they have to live with and manage for many years."
The Arthritis Research UK Centre for Adolescent Rheumatology is the world's first centre dedicated to understanding the very specific needs of young people who are growing up with arthritis.
By focusing attention on understanding why and how arthritis is different in adolescence, and what happens as young people enter adult life, the centre aims to dramatically improve treatment and care.