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Seven Quick Facts for National Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month

By Brian Acton

Arthritis is a family of conditions that is often associated with older adults. But for many children and young adults, arthritis is an everyday reality. Nearly 300,000 American children have been diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, and the condition affects children and their families alike. July is National Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, aimed at raising awareness of the condition and helping organizations advocate for the children and families affected. With that in mind, here are seven quick facts about juvenile arthritis. 1. There Are Many Kinds of Juvenile Arthritis Juvenile arthritis is actually a blanket term that covers many different autoimmune or inflammatory conditions. While the different types of juvenile arthritis may share symptoms including pain, joint inflammation, and swelling, they can affect the body in distinct ways. The most common form is juvenile idiopathic arthritis, but other forms include juvenile lupus, juvenile dermatomyositis, and fibromyalgia. 2. Juvenile Arthritis Can Affect Body Development Juvenile arthritis is particularly worrisome because it can hinder physical development as children grow and move through adolescence, resulting in smaller stature and even delayed puberty. In some cases, bones and joints can grow in uneven ways. In around 10% to 20% of children with the most prevalent form of arthritis, an inflammation of the eyes can cause visual problems. 3. There Are Many Symptoms Symptoms can include joint swelling, pain, and stiffness, especially in the extremities. These symptoms may be worse after waking up. Other symptoms can include limping due to knee soreness, clumsiness, fever, persistent skin rashes, and swelling of the lymph nodes. 4. Diagnosis Can Be Difficult Children may not report painful symptoms, and symptoms can be easily misdiagnosed or dismissed by parents as normal injuries or growing pains. There is no single lab test to diagnose juvenile arthritis, and diagnosis may require a combination of blood tests, physical examination, and X-rays. 5. There Is Treatment, But No Cure Researchers are still working to find a cure for juvenile arthritis. The causes aren’t currently understood. Treatment for juvenile arthritis varies between the type of arthritis and the individual child. Many children need a a combination of treatments, which may include drugs, physical therapy, consultations with rheumatology specialists, and more. 6. Activity Can Help The pain and stiffness resulting from juvenile arthritis can prevent children from engaging in some activities, but physical activity is still important. It can help reduce symptoms, strengthen muscles, and maintain joint function and range of motion. Most children with juvenile arthritis can participate in sports or physical activities when their symptoms aren’t flaring up. 7. Things are Getting Better The treatment of juvenile arthritis has made leaps and bounds in the last twenty years. Advances in medicine, advanced imaging diagnosis, and many forms of treatment have provided a much sunnier outlook for modern children who are diagnosed with juvenile arthritis. Sources: https://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Juv_Arthritis/juvenile_arthritis_ff.asp https://www.curearthritis.org/juvenile-arthritis-awareness-month/ http://blog.arthritis.org/news/juvenile-arthritis-awareness-month/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3278938/ http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/juvenile-rheumatoid-arthritis/basics/tests-diagnosis/con-20014378 https://healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed/postings/2014/07/072214_article-juvenile-arthritis.php http://radiology.ucsf.edu/blog/juvenile-arthritis-current-treatment-and-future-advances-0
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