Skip to Content

Health Library

Classification of Juvenile Arthritis

Topic Overview

Previously there were two traditional classifications of juvenile arthritis: the European classification of juvenile chronic arthritis (JCA) and the American classification of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA). Because these classifications broke down into different categories, European and American research findings and treatment recommendations were hard to use interchangeably.

In an effort to improve research and treatment, the International League Against Rheumatism has devised a unifying set of international criteria, using the term "juvenile idiopathic arthritis" (JIA). The word "idiopathic" means "of unknown cause." First proposed in 1995 and later revised in 1997, this classification is now used by most researchers and health professionals.

The table below summarizes the three classification systems.

Classification systems for juvenile arthritis
Organization Classification Length of illness before diagnosis
International League Against Rheumatism Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA)
Systemic JIA
Polyarticular JIA, RF-positive
Polyarticular JIA, RF-negative
Oligoarticular JIA
  • Persistent (1 to 4 joints)
  • Extended (eventually affecting 5 or more joints)
Psoriatic arthritis
Enthesis-related arthritis
Other arthritis (also called undifferentiated or unclassified arthritis)
6 weeks
American College of Rheumatology Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA)
Systemic JRA
Polyarticular JRA (5 or more joints)
Oligoarticular JRA (1 to 4 joints)

JRA does not include similar types of childhood arthritis (juvenile ankylosing spondylitis, juvenile psoriatic arthritis).

6 weeks
European League Against Rheumatism Juvenile chronic arthritis (JCA)
Systemic JCA
Polyarticular JCA (5 or more joints, RF-negative)
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (5 or more joints, RF-positive)
Oligoarticular JCA (1 to 4 joints)
Juvenile psoriatic arthritis
Juvenile ankylosing spondylitis
3 months

Regardless of the classification, children who develop symptoms before reaching 16 years of age are considered to have juvenile arthritis.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Last Revised June 5, 2012

Last Revised: June 5, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Decision Points

Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.

You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:

Interactive Tools

Get started learning more about your health!

Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.

Symptom Checker

Feeling under the weather?

Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.