ARTHRITIS COMMON IN CHILDREN, YET OFTEN MISDIAGNOSED
Recognizing Warning Signs Key to Preventing Disability
DALLAS ( – Juvenile Arthritis is one of the most common chronic illnesses affecting children, yet it often goes undetected or misdiagnosed when symptoms first appear. This July, Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, the Arthritis Foundation is focusing on increasing awareness of early signs and symptoof Juvenile Arthritis and resources available for families affected by the disease.)
Often a child complaining of achy joints is diagnosed as having “growing pains,” a phenomenon believed to be the result of the natural growth process. Now it’s known that joint pain, stiffness and swelling in or around the joint may be early signs of a serious, inflammatory rheumatic disease.
“When joint pain, swelling or stiffness occurs in one or more of your child’s joints for at least six weeks, it’s important not to assume these symptoms are temporary, and to get a proper diagnosis from a pediatric arthritis specialist,” says Susan Carter, Chief Executive Officer, Arthritis Foundation South CentralRegion. “Early medical treatment of juvenile arthritis can prevent serious, permanent damage to your child’s joints and enable him or her to live an active, full childhood.”
Contrary to general belief, infants, children and teenagers can get arthritis. Approximately 300,000 children are affected by juvenile arthritis. While there is no known cure, there has never been a more optimistic outlook for children with Juvenile Arthritis. Advances in research have produced new treatments that moderate and even stop the effects of juvenile arthritis, preventing significant disability in later years.
The Arthritis Foundation supports a variety of national programs and local activities for families of children with arthritis throughout the South Central Region in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. These programs have been an invaluable resource to Frisco’s Stacy Thiele and her nine-year-old daughter Rebecca, who was diagnosed with Juvenile Arthritis at age 3.
“Participating in the Arthritis Foundation’s National JA Conference and in the JA Family Weekend in Grapevine, TX allowed me, my husband and Rebecca to get to know other families in our situation and bond with them,” said Thiele. “These people have become such a great support group all year round. We find it’s about making the personal connections, sharing our individual stories and getting to know each other. It is also extremely helpful to get medical updates on JA from the doctors, as well as new medications that are in trial. I think that is one of the most important aspects I take away from these events that I could not get on my own,” she added.
In a continued effort to reduce the heavy burden of juvenile arthritis, disability and cost of this chronic disease, the Arthritis Foundation is leading the way to conquer this disease through increasing:
- Awareness and Support:
- Juvenile Arthritis Conference – Taking place at the Hyatt Regency Orange County hotel in Anaheim, California, the nationwide conference is held annually for families affected by juvenile arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. Specific educational tracks focus on issues relating to parents, teens/young adults, children affected by arthritis and their siblings. In addition, the conference offers families a chance to network with each other and learn new techniques for managing Juvenile Arthritis and other rheumatic diseases.
- Regional and local JA camps and family weekend:
- The 2013 New Mexico JRA Camp was held June 3-7 in Capitan, New Mexico. Thirty children from across the state experienced a week of high adventure in the foothills of the Lincoln National Forest between the Capitan and Sacramento Mountains. This year’s camp was a rousing success, with campers learning ways to cope with their fears about JRA and the importance of exercise in helping fight their disease. Most importantly, all the campers came away with new friends who understand what they are going through.
- Similarly, Camp J.A.M. - Juvenile Arthritis and Me, held in Davis, OK, , brings together kids and teens with juvenile arthritis living in Oklahoma and North Texas to explore common problems by sharing experiences and solutions, and making life-long friends. Visit our Camp J.A.M. Facebook page for more details.
- Camp Kids Get Arthritis Too is an overnight family camp for South Texas JA families. It takes place twice a year in the fall ( ) and spring (2014 dates TBD), near Brenham, TX. For more details, contact Jaime Dilger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- JA Family Weekend: Held annually at Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, TX, the weekend is open to all JA families in the South Central Region. This year’s dates are . Please contact Serena Heins for more information at email@example.com.
- Advocacy: There are only 327 rheumatologists serving the entire South Central Region: Texas, 269; Oklahoma, 36; New Mexico, 22. However, there are more than 30,000 children suffering from arthritis in the region and only 16 pediatric rheumatologists. Arthritis advocates speak out for federal support to train more pediatric rheumatologists and for more research funding to help children with all forms of juvenile arthritis.
- Advancing the Quality of Life for Children with Arthritis – For more than 60 years, the Arthritis Foundation has been a leader in advancing treatments and a cure for juvenile arthritis. Currently, the Arthritis Foundation funds researchers working in the field of juvenile arthritis, totaling a commitment of more than $1.1 million in 2013. These researchers are investigating a wide range of topics, from how environmental and genomic factors might play a role in triggering juvenile arthritis, to collecting data and evaluating the efficacy of standardized treatment plans, to the development and testing of a smart phone app to help children cope with pain. The Arthritis Foundation also is proud to provide $2.4 million in grant money to support the Childhood Arthritis & Rheumatology Research Alliance (CARRA), a national organization of pediatric rheumatologists who have joined together to answer critical research questions.
- Juvenile Arthritis Registry – Efforts to track drug side effects and establish treatment benchmarks through a registry aim to benefit future juvenile arthritis treatments.
More information on juvenile arthritis and resources for families is available on the Arthritis Foundation website at http://www.arthritis.org/juvenile-arthritis.php.
About the Arthritis Foundation
Striking one in every five adults and 300,000 children, arthritis is the nation’s leading cause of disability. The Arthritis Foundation (www.arthritis.org) is committed to raising awareness and reducing the unacceptable impact of this serious and painful disease, which can severely damage joints and rob people of living life to its fullest. The Foundation funds life-changing research that has restored mobility in patients for more than six decades; fights for health care policies that improve the lives of the millions who live with arthritis; and partners with families to provide empowering programs and information.