You know that arthritis is a painful condition, and that it affects mostly adults and seniors. You know people with arthritis are oftentimes limited by the pain caused by arthritis of the hands or knees and other parts of the body. But the ugly truth is that young people can develop arthritis just like older people. The difference is that it is possible to grow out of juvenile arthritis; adults usually have life-long symptoms.
July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month. The goal is to raise awareness for the over 300,000 young people currently living with juvenile arthritis, and to generate donations for arthritis research efforts. Do your part by reading on to learn more about the disease, who it affects, and what people with Juvenile Arthritis face each day.
What Is Juvenile Arthritis and What Causes It?
In short, science has not identified a definite cause. Thus, another name for arthritis seen in young people and children is idiopathic arthritis. “Idiopathic” refers to any disease or condition that appears spontaneously for no identifiable reason.
Some researchers believe that the onset of juvenile arthritis is a two-step process: a child is born with a specific gene, and some type of illness, such as an infection or virus, triggers the development of an autoimmune disorder that causes the arthritis.
An autoimmune disease is when the body’s immune system begins attacking its own healthy cells and tissues. Scientists do not know what causes the body to turn on itself like this.
What Age Group Is At Risk?
Juvenile arthritis symptoms can appear as early as 6 months and as late as your early 20s. Symptoms go into remission or flare up with varying frequency in most cases of juvenile arthritis.
What Are The Symptoms?
In young children, especially, it is hard to recognize the signs of arthritis, especially if you don’t know that it is even a possibility. Parents often perceive young children’s swollen joints and fever as a flu symptom, or a rash as an allergic reaction.
It’s an understandable mistake; who would jump to the conclusion that their child actually has arthritis, after all?
Here are some symptoms of juvenile arthritis that are easier to look for and recognize in your child:
- Joint swelling, pain, and stiffness that does not go away, especially in the knees, hands, and feet.
- Limping after sleep or rest because of stiff knees and feet.
- Excessive clumsiness.
- High fever and skin rash.
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck and other areas of the body.
Juvenile arthritis is often inconsistent. Kids will experience flare ups as well as periods of remission.
Life With Juvenile Arthritis
Sometimes the limitations of juvenile arthritis are unavoidable, but most of the time, individuals living with it are able to lead fairly normal childhoods and adult lives.
The most important thing is to keep a person with juvenile arthritis active whenever possible. Exercise prevents the joints from stiffening up and maintains a good range of motion. Parents of child patients and older individuals with the disease will benefit from these tips for living with juvenile arthritis:
- Get the best care possible from an orthopedic surgeon, hand specialist, physical therapist, and mental health professional. You should be able to trust these doctors and talk openly with them.
- Learn as much as you can about the condition.
- Join a support group.
- Treat children with juvenile arthritis as normal as possible.
- Adequate and regular exercise and physical therapy.
- Talk with children affected by this type of arthritis, as well as others who care for them, such as teachers, coaches, and tutors. Keep them in the loop and informed about how to care for the child properly.
Awareness for juvenile arthritis is low; most people just don’t realize that kids and young adults struggle with it. Share information about this condition with friends and family to generate support for research dedicated to finding a cure.
Any condition affecting the hands and wrists, especially in children, should be taken seriously so as not to risk permanent injury or damage. The fellowship-trained doctors at the Hand Surgery Specialists of Texas in Houston use their years of experience and professionalism to keep your hands healthy and working just as hard as you do. Make an appointment today!