National Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month
July 17, 2018 12:34 PM
July is National Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month. That’s right, kids get arthritis too. Juvenile arthritis affects nearly 300,000 kids in the United States, yet very few people know that this condition exists. Arthritis is known to many as an “elderly” disease, unfortunately, that is far from the reality. While not as common as its adult counterpart, juvenile arthritis is no less serious. With no known cause or cure, the effects of juvenile arthritis can be long-lasting and painful, making early detection, aggressive treatment, and ongoing research vital to improving quality of life.
WHAT IS JUVENILE ARTHRITIS?
Juvenile arthritis is used as an umbrella term to describe the different autoimmune and inflammatory conditions affecting children under the age of 16. Common symptoms shared by each type are joint pain, joint swelling, redness, fever, and difficulty with daily activities such as walking and dressing. However, juvenile arthritis goes far beyond these symptoms, as each type affects the body in unique ways. Here are the most prevalent types of juvenile arthritis and their symptoms:
Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
JIA is the most common, making it important to pay attention to any swelling in one or more joints that lasts at least six weeks, as that’s the tell-tale sign. Other symptoms include muscle and soft-tissue tightening, bone erosion, joint misalignment, and changes in your child’s growth pattern. After waiting six weeks to see if symptoms persist, your child’s doctor may need to wait another six months to see how the disease progresses to determine the best course of treatment.
Juvenile dermatomyositis is an inflammatory disease which causes muscle weakness and a rash on the eyelids and knuckles. Muscle weakness most often occurs in the torso, shoulders, and upper legs which could limit the ability to complete normal tasks such as running or climbing stairs.
Lupus is an autoimmune disease which can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, and blood. Common symptoms include a butterfly-shaped rash between the bridge of the nose, a scaly-type rash on the face or neck, sensitivity to sunlight, and pain in the joints and chest.
Scleroderma literally translates to “hard skin” and comes in two forms: systematic scleroderma and localized scleroderma, which is more common in children. Localized scleroderma can be separated further, into either morphea or linear scleroderma. Morphea presents itself as irregular patches of skin that start out small and pink, later becoming pale and hard. Linear scleroderma transforms the skin in a similar way to morphea, spreading along lines instead of patches, and is typically found on an arm or leg.
Kawasaki disease is a rare condition that causes inflammation of the blood vessels which can lead to heart complications. It’s most common in children aged two and younger, and other symptoms include high fever, rashes, joint pain, and swelling.
Mixed connective tissue disease (MCTD)
MCTD is an autoimmune disorder which shares symptoms with three different disorders: lupus, scleroderma, and polymyositis, making it difficult to diagnose. Common symptoms, which occur in random order, are fatigue, mild fever, cold and numb fingers, swelling, and joint pain. In later stages of the disease, the heart, lungs, kidneys, or other organs may become affected.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome which can cause muscle and joint pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, mood/concentration problems, headaches, and abdominal pain. This syndrome is more common in girls and is typically diagnosed after puberty.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
One of the easiest ways to get involved is by spreading awareness. Early diagnosis is vital to increasing a child’s chances of remission, but too few parents know to look for the signs of juvenile arthritis. While more common in adults, arthritis is not an elderly disease; it can affect anyone, at any age. Spread the message on social media with “#KidsGetArthritisToo” alongside any connection you have to juvenile arthritis or a simple fact. The purpose here is simply to spread the word and debunk the idea that you don’t need to worry about arthritis until you get older.
The Arthritis Foundation is dedicated to spreading awareness for all types of arthritis, while funding research to better understand this disease and hopefully find a cure. Their goal is to change people’s lives by providing information and resources, greater access to care, and community connections. They provide kids with the opportunity to go to summer camp in a safe environment, and connect families through an annual conference so no one has to battle juvenile arthritis alone.
The worst thing you can do is sit idly by; whether it’s getting more informed, spreading awareness, or making a small donation, every little bit helps. Juvenile arthritis is a sad and painful disease, and too little is known about its causes and effects. Join the fight against juvenile arthritis this July and every day moving forward; there is a long journey ahead to finding a cure, and no one should have to take it alone.