Although you might think of senior citizens when you hear the word “arthritis,” almost 300,000 kids under the age of 18 in the United States have a similar condition and nearly 48 million adult us citizens alone are affected with forms of rheumatism. (Prevalence of and Annual ambulatory Health Care Visits for Pediatric Arthritis and Other Rheumatologic Conditions in the US. 2001-2004. Arthritis Rheum) When arthritis strikes people younger than 18, it’s called juvenile rheumatoid “idiopathic” arthritis. Juvenile Arthritis is one of the most common childhood diseases in the United States. (Estimates of the Prevalence of Arthritis and Selected Musculoskeletal Disorders in the United States. Arthritis & Rheumatism 1998)
There 3-9 per 10,000 people under 18 years of age that are diagnosed with this chronic idiopathic autoimmune disease every year, but the awareness, understanding, and knowledge of this 300,000 strong childhood disease is surprisingly low.
Common Assumptions made regarding Arthritis:
- Many people associate rheumatoid or arthritis with the middle aged or elderly, not with children or the fact that forms of rheumatism can be diagnosed at any age in their life
according to an analysis survey I conducted with 10 random surveyors, 4 people had no knowledge of what Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis actually was, and 6 people said they had heard of JRA but out of those six only 3 were personally linked to JRA and its problems, and the other half were only partially aware of JRA and believed arthritis to be linked to just the middle aged or elderly.
- Many people assumed that you must be overweight, unhealthy, or that it is passed down through family members with a history of Arthritis to receive arthritis.
The cause of most forms of juvenile arthritis is unknown, but it is not contagious and there is no evidence that foods, toxins, allergies or vitamin deficiencies play a role. Bad habits, like eating too much junk food or failing to stick to an exercise program, don’t cause juvenile arthritis. Since it’s not contagious, you can rest assured you didn’t catch it from your grandparents and your friends can’t catch it from you.
Surprising Medical Ramifications :
The sheer amount of cost and expenses needed is astronomical, and children are spending more time in hospitals and therapy sessions than being in school or socializing.
Ambulatory care visits for pediatric arthritis and rheumatologic conditions averaged 827,000 annually. Also, Arthritis and related conditions, such as juvenile arthritis, cost the U.S. economy nearly $128 billion per year in medical care and indirect expenses, including lost wages and productivity. [Data Source: 2003 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey]
Juvenile arthritis mainly affects joints, so that’s where symptoms tend to show up, but it can affect all parts of the body, even including organs, muscles, etc. Most people experience swelling, pain, warmth and stiffness in their joints which is called Joint contracture, which results from holding a painful joint in a flexed position for an extended period. But you might also have seemingly mysterious symptoms like a loss of appetite, a new rash, a fever or trouble sleeping.
While the symptoms of juvenile arthritis are signals that something is wrong, they don’t always send a perfectly clear message. After all, maybe a tough soccer game is responsible for your sore, stiff joints. An upcoming exam could be the reason you can’t sleep. A fever might be explained away if the flu happens to be going around. JRA can hide even in the littlest of problems.
Although Juvenile Arthritis is one of the most common of childhood chronic diseases to date, there is NO CURE in sight for those suffering, and the lack of knowledge about the disease in society and the underestimation of the psychological and physical pain these children go through every day of their life, and the underfunding of research, deserves understanding and recognition for a disease that was once believed only reserved for the elderly.
One Suggested Solution:
Becoming an educated or understanding advocate of juvenile arthritis can decrease the psychological damage these children experience, from having to constantly explain themselves and their disease to others as to why they aren’t as fast, why they cant do certain things, why they need help doing things and that just because it is a disease it does not mean that they are contagious
From years of personal experience, my observations have shown that many diagnosed among these adolescents and children are ashamed of their disease, they don’t have the needed time to become fully educated to understand what their disease is about, are ridiculed for their disability when they have to explain , causing them to not stand up or speak out (becoming introverted), and thus contributing to the ignorance and misunderstandings of what JRA can really do to whom it affects.
But recently, many children and adolescents diagnosed with Juvenile Arthritis that are old enough to fully understand and that have the time to pursue the knowledge to be educated about their disease become passionate advocates of their disease are starting a movement on their own to educate and plead with others to gain understanding of their suffering and become outgoing individuals able to speak out, which is our goal with this blog, since we are our own advocates.
Arthritis can reach all of us, no matter the age. We need to shed light that these children and adolescents suffer just as much as adults with arthritis do, sometimes even more so because many don’t have the level of understanding or knowledge needed to know why it hurts so bad sometimes. Become an advocate for JRA. Because becoming and advocate for Juvenile Arthritis can help all children affected to feel a little more accepted, and that they are not truly alone in their suffering. With understanding, comes confidence.
To help find out more, please go to http://www.arthritis.org/arthritis-awareness-online.php to find ways to take action against arthritis and spread the knowledge!