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Rheumatology conditions - an overview

  • How you say it: room-a-tol-o-gee

    Rheumatology conditions can affect the muscles and joints in many ways. This factsheet provides a brief overview of several rheumatology conditions - you can find more detailed information at the website of the RCH Rheumatology Unit.

    What is juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA)?

    Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is a general name for several kinds of arthritis. 'Juvenile' means that it affects young people; 'idiopathic' means that we don't know what the cause is; and 'arthritis' means inflammation of the joints.

    When a child is diagnosed with JIA, it is impossible to say exactly how long the condition will last. JIA can continue for months or years. The main ways of treating JIA include medication for inflammation, exercise, splints, joint injections to reduce inflammation in particular joints and pain management.  While treatment can reduce the symptoms, it does not lead to a cure. 

    Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)

    Systemic lupus erythematosus, also called SLE or lupus, can affect almost any organ or organ system of the body. Systemic lupus may include periods where few, if any, symptoms are evident (remission), and periods when the disease becomes more active (flare).  Currently there is no cure for lupus, but early diagnosis and proper medical treatment can significantly help control the disease.


    For most people with lupus, effective treatment can minimise symptoms, reduce inflammation and pain, help maintain normal functions and stop the development of serious complications. Taking medications as directed, having blood or urine tests when requested, attending scheduled medical appointments and avoiding too much sun are all important parts of treatment. A good working relationship with your child's doctor is one of the most important factors in the successful treatment of lupus.

    See: The Lupus Foundation of America 

    Juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM)

    Juvenile dermatomyositis (JDM) is a disease marked by muscle weakness and skin rash. The first sign of JDM is usually a skin rash. The rash may be:

    • red and patchy, like dry skin
    • a red or purplish colour on the eyelids or cheeks that may look more like allergies
    • or both.

    Children with JDM can have weak muscles at the same time that they first get the skin rash, or the weak muscles may come days, weeks or months after the rash.


    The symptoms of JDM vary from patient to patient and no one treatment works for everyone. Your child's doctor may use a combination of drugs and may change them over time. It is very important that you and your child talk openly about the treatment and any side effects.  Undertaking a regular exercise program, designed for each individual's ability and weakness, is also important.

    See: The Myositis Assocation 


    Vasculitis is a general term for a group of diseases that involve inflammation in blood vessels. Blood vessels of all sizes may be affected, from the largest vessel in the body (the aorta in the heart) to the smallest blood vessels in the skin (capillaries). The size of the blood vessels affected varies according to the specific type of vasculitis. 


    Scleroderma, or systemic sclerosis, is a chronic connective tissue disease generally classified as one of the autoimmune rheumatic diseases. The word scleroderma comes from two Greek words: 'sclero' meaning hard, and 'derma' meaning skin. Hardening of the skin is one of the most visible signs of the disease. Scleroderma varies from patient to patient, but prompt and proper diagnosis and effective treatment may minimise the symptoms and reduce the chance of damage. Scleroderma is not something your child can catch from, or spread to, others.

    See: The US Juvenile Scleroderma Network, Inc  and The US Scleroderma Foundation.

    Chronic recurrent multifocal osteomyelitis (CRMO)

    Chronic recurrent multifocal osteomyelitis (CRMO) is a condition in which a child's bones become inflamed and painful. CRMO comes and goes, which means there are periods where there are no symptoms but 'flare-ups' occur occasionally.

    CRMO is rare and seems to affect more girls than boys. The aim of treatment is to try to prevent flare-ups and treat them if they occur. Long term follow up is usually required to monitor any growth disturbances in the affected bones. Overall, the outlook for children and young adults with CRMO is excellent. Most people respond well to treatment and suffer few long-term effects.

    For more information

    • Please see the RCH  Rheumatology Unit website for more information for parents and children on the above and other conditions.
    • You can also talk to your family doctor or your child's rheumatologist.

    Developed by the RCH Rheumatology Unit.  First published in February 2008. Updated November 2010.


This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.