Diagnosis of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA)

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Several exams and tests are done in order to diagnose arthritis. A complete medical history, physical exam, blood tests, and imaging studies such as MRI and X-rays are needed.

Key points

  • There is no single test to diagnose JIA.
  • Diagnosis of JIA usually includes a review of your child's medical history, physical exam, blood tests, and imaging tests.

There is no single test to diagnose JIA in children and teenagers. Since JIA may be a part of many different illnesses, it is important to exclude those other conditions. The doctor will do a complete evaluation to make sure the joint pain and swelling are not due to some other cause. It may take some time for the doctor to make sure that a child has JIA. The doctor will also need to determine what type of JIA the child has.

For more information regarding teens and JIA, please visit our teen JIA learning hub: teens.aboutkidshealth.ca/jiateenhub


Your child's doctor will hold a detailed interview with you and your child to obtain a complete history about your child's health and symptoms. They will ask you and your child a lot of questions. The doctor will ask about your child's past health, any tests that have been done, any medications or treatments that have been used and how well any of these treatments have worked for your child. This health history helps to determine how long the symptoms have been present. It can also help rule out other possible causes.

Your child's doctor will want to know if you or other family members have JIA, other types of arthritis or certain other illnesses. Some forms of JIA can be inherited, meaning that they can be passed down from generation to generation.

Physical exam

Your child's doctor will do a complete physical examination, which is an examination of the entire body. During the exam, they will check to see if the joints are inflamed. Symptoms of joint inflammation may include joint swelling, limited movement, or pain on movement.

Certain types of JIA are associated with rash, eye problems, or inflammation of the internal organs. Your child's doctor will check for these during the physical exam. Your child may also need to see an eye doctor for a more specialized eye exam.

Blood tests

  • Hemoglobin and blood count testing
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
  • C-reactive protein (CRP)
  • Antinuclear antibody (ANA)
  • Rheumatoid factor (RF)
  • Human leukocyte antigen (HLA)
  • Urinalysis
  • Other tests if needed

These tests are explained on the “Blood tests” page of this learning hub.

Imaging studies

Your child's doctor may order certain imaging studies to help with diagnosis. Imaging studies provide pictures of the bones, joints and organs. They can help check for other possible causes of JIA. These tests include the following.

  • X-rays
  • Bone scan
  • Bone density test
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Ultrasound
Last updated: January 31st 2017