Background: Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is the most common systemic cause of pediatric uveitis in Europe and North America. Uveitis is commonly perceived as a frequent sequela of JRA and JRA-associated uveitis is commonly considered to have a complicated course with frequent adverse visual outcomes.
Methods: We performed a systematic literature search for series of consecutive patients with JRA (as defined by the American College of Rheumatology criteria) reporting on the frequency of uveitis and/or complications of uveitis, published between January 1980 and December 2004. The main outcome measures were: the cumulative incidence of uveitis in JRA, the cumulative incidence of adverse visual outcome and that of complications in JRA-associated uveitis. Additionally, the influence of gender, presence of antinuclear antibody (ANA) and disease onset subtype to the likelihood of developing uveitis were examined.
Results: Analysis of pooled data from the 26 eligible series suggested a cumulative incidence of uveitis in JRA of 8.3% [95% confidence intervals (CI), 7.5-9.1%]. The cumulative incidence of uveitis varied according to geographic location, being highest in Scandinavia, then the US, then Asia and lowest in India. JRA-associated uveitis was more common in pauciarticular than polyarticular onset patients [odds ratio (OR) = 3.2, 95% CI, 2.33-4.36] and in ANA-positive than ANA-negative patients (OR = 3.18, 95% CI, 2.22-4.54). Female gender was only a weak risk factor for the development of uveitis in JRA patients (OR = 1.69, 95% CI 1.09-2.62) and was not statistically significant after considering disease onset subtypes. In JRA-associated uveitis the cumulative incidence of cumulative incidence of adverse outcome (visual acuity < 20/40 OU) was 9.2% (95% CI: 4.7-15.8) of cataracts 20.5% (95% CI: 15.5-26.3), of glaucoma 18.9% (95% CI: 14.4-24.2) and of band keratopathy 15.7% (95% CI: 10.9-21.7).
Conclusion: The cumulative incidence of uveitis in JRA varies according to geographic location, presence of ANA, type of JRA onset and gender. Uveitis, adverse visual outcome, and complications in JRA are less frequent than commonly accepted.