Kids get arthritis. In fact, juvenile arthritis (JA) affects nearly 300,000 children – nearly 1 in 250 – in the United States. July is National Juvenile Arthritis Awareness month and at the Chronic Disease Coalition, we believe it’s essential to bring attention to this painful disease.
Just like kidney, celiac, diabetes and psoriasis, JA is an autoimmune disease. There are several types of JA, and the symptoms range from swollen and stiff joints to muscle weakness to intense chronic pain. Like other chronic conditions, symptoms differ depending on the patient. Symptoms may vary day-to-day, and patients may experience pain in just one joint or multiple joints. The severity of the disease generally depends on the number of affected joints.
Diagnosing JA can be tricky. Patients experience symptoms that occur in other chronic diseases, and many diseases must be ruled out before a medical professional can accurately diagnose a patient.
Many patients who have been diagnosed, like Katie Chipman of Nebraska, try to live their lives as normally as possible. However, when Katie was first diagnosed, she was forced to quit gymnastics. However, through trial and error, she has found that twice-a-month infusion treatments relieves her symptoms. She has since returned to gymnastics.
Like other autoimmune diseases patients can experience “flares,” meaning symptoms can be more pronounced for certain periods of time.
JA is best treated the sooner it’s diagnosed. Doctors can diagnose JA through physical examinations, lab tests, and understanding a patient’s medical history. Symptoms must be monitored at home for six weeks, and doctors generally wait six months before diagnosing a patient with JA.
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is the most common form of juvenile arthritis, affecting nearly 50,000 children in the United States. “Idiopathic” is a reference to the unknown origin of the disease. However, researchers now believe that many children who suffer from JIA are genetically predisposed.
There is no cure for JA and its debilitating effects can take its toll on patients and their families. For many, JA results in feelings of loneliness, depression, and isolation. However, many treatments are able to slow or control symptoms. Treatment can decrease inflammation or target specific proteins, allowing doctors to slow the progression of JA and relieve symptoms.
At the Chronic Disease Coalition, you can help us fight against the discriminatory insurance practices that prevent chronic disease patients, including kids, from receiving the proper care they need.