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Abstract: Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is a group of disorders characterized by arthritis persisting for at least 6 weeks with onset before the age of 16 years. Within this cluster of conditions, the polyarticular form (involving more than four joints within the first 6 months) is further divided based on the presence of rheumatoid factor. Children with polyarticular JIA pose unique diagnostic and therapeutic challenges compared to children with involvement of fewer joints. Polyarticular JIA patients tend to have a more refractory course and therefore are at increased risk for joint damage, resulting in poorer functional outcomes and decreased quality of life. Although the ability to treat this disorder continues to improve, especially with the advent of biologic agents, there is still much about the epidemiology and pathogenesis of polyarticular JIA that is unknown. The epidemiology of polyarticular JIA varies worldwide with a vast difference in reported cases between different global regions as well as within individual countries. Several genetic risk loci have been identified conferring increased susceptibility to JIA, many within the human leukocyte antigen region. Beyond the genome, environmental factors also seem to contribute to the etiology of polyarticular JIA. This review article will focus on the epidemiology and current treatments of polyarticular JIA and briefly discuss genetic and environmental influences on the pathogenesis of JIA as well as new and emerging therapies.
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