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 symptoms of 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 Arthritis Foundation Vice President of Public Health Policy and Advocacy, Dr. Patience White. "Early medical treatment of juvenile arthritis can prevent serious, permanent damage to your child's joints and enable 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.
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 July 18-20 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.
- Advocacy – Eleven states do not have a single specialist to treat children with juvenile arthritis. 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 date 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 aregistry aim to benefit future juvenile arthritis treatments.
More information on juvenile arthritis and resources for families is available on the Arthritis Foundation website athttp://www.arthritis.org/juvenile-arthritis.php.