When you hear the word "arthritis," you most likely picture an elderly adult with crippled hands or a hunched-over back. But, arthritis is not a condition that only the elderly suffers from—over 300,000 kids in the U.S. suffer from juvenile arthritis.
July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, and this month is set aside annually to raise awareness and support for children and families affected by this debilitating condition. Juvenile Arthritis (JA) takes a unique physical and emotional toll on children, often resulting in crippling pain and feelings of loneliness or depression.
What is Juvenile Arthritis?
Unlike most adult forms of arthritis that are caused by wear and tear or joint degeneration and inflammation, juvenile arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. Children's immune systems aren't fully formed, and their bodies begin to attack the joints, causing swelling, inflammation, and pain.
JA can make it hard to do schoolwork or participate in sports, social, and after-school activities.
Symptoms of Juvenile Arthritis
The most common symptom for most types of juvenile arthritis is pain and swelling in the joints of the body.
Other symptoms include:
- Decreased range of motion in joints
- Limping after getting up from a nap or after sitting for long periods of time
- Stiffness in the morning
Very young children may not be able to say exactly what hurts and where, so they may have other symptoms such as crying, fussiness, or irritability. Some children may also develop a fever. If these symptoms persist for more than a week, it’s time to see a provider.
Bring Awareness to Juvenile Arthritis
This month is a great opportunity to encourage parents who suspect their child may have arthritis to consult a rheumatologist as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment are the best options for avoiding permanent joint damage and improving the chance of remission.