Adult Still's disease
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Adult Still's disease

Definition

Adult Still's disease is a rare illness that causes high fevers, rash, and joint pain. It may lead to long-term (chronic) arthritis.

Still's disease is a severe version of juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), which occurs in children. Adults can have the same condition, though much less commonly.

The adult disease is now more commonly called adult-onset Still's disease (AOSD).

Alternative Names

Still's disease - adult; AOSD

Causes

Fewer than 1 out of 100,000 people develop adult Still's disease each year. It affects women more often than men.

Still's disease that occurs in children is called systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

The cause of adult Still's disease is unknown. No risk factors for the disease have been identified.

Symptoms

Almost all patients will have fever, joint pain, sore throat, and a rash.

  • Joint pain, warmth, and swelling are common. Usually, several joints are involved at the same time. Often, patients have morning stiffness of joints that lasts for several hours.
  • The fever usually comes on quickly once per day, most commonly in the afternoon or evening.
  • The skin rash is typically salmon-pink colored and comes and goes with the fever.

Additional symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain and swelling
  • Pain with a deep breath (pleurisy)
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes (glands)
  • Weight loss

Occasionally, the spleen or liver may become swollen. Lung and heart inflammation may occur.

Exams and Tests

Adult Still's disease can only be diagnosed after other diseases are ruled out. You may need many medical tests before a final diagnosis is made.

A physical exam may reveal a fever, rash, and arthritis. The health care provider will use a stethoscope to listen for changes in the sound of your heart or lungs.

The following blood tests can be helpful in diagnosing adult Still's disease:

Other tests may be needed to check for inflammation of the joints, chest, liver, and spleen:

Treatment

The goal of treatment for adult Still's disease is to control the symptoms of arthritis. Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, are usually the first treatment used.

Prednisone may be used for more severe cases.

If the disease persists for a long time (becomes chronic), medicines that suppress the immune system might be needed. Such medicines include:

  • Anakinra (interleukin-1 receptor agonist)
  • Methotrexate
  • Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) antagonists such as Enbrel (etanercept)

Outlook (Prognosis)

Studies show that in about 20% of patients, all symptoms go away in a year and never come back. In about 30% of patients, all symptoms go away but then come back several times over the next few years.

Symptoms continue for a long time (chronic) in about half of patients with adult Still's disease.

Possible Complications

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of adult Still's disease.

If you have already been diagnosed with the condition, you should call your health care provider if you have a cough or difficulty breathing.

References

Harris ED, Budd RC, Genovese MC, Firestein GS, Sargent JS, Sledge CB. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology. 7th ed. St. Louis, Mo: WB Saunders; 2005:1047-1048.

Pay S, Turkcapar N, Kalyoncu M, et al. A multicenter study of patients with adult-onset Still's disease compared with systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Clin Rheumatol. 2006;25:639-644.

Efthimiou P, Paik PK, Bielory L. Diagnosis and management of adult onset Still's disease. Ann Rheum Dis. 2006;65(5):564-572.

Kadar J, Petrovicz E. Adult-onset Still's disease. Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol. 2004;18(5):663-676.


Review Date: 2/7/2011
Reviewed By: Michael E. Makover, MD, professor and attending in Rheumatology at the New York University Medical Center, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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