Kids Get Arthritis Too!

One of the most frustrating comments to parents of kids with Juvenile Arthritis is “Are you sure?  That’s an elderly person’s disease!”

Well, yes and no.

For the uninitiated, the word “Arthritis” summons up images of hobbling elderly, gnarled fingers, and remarks about the weather in relationship to bum knees. Others may think about that nagging sports injury, or the aches and pains of getting older and a body worn by time.

They are right. That IS arthritis, and most of the time, kids don’t get it. More specifically, the type of arthritis people are thinking about is osteoarthritis, and it is a result of injury or wear and tear.  This is the type of arthritis that most people are familiar with.

BUT

That is not the whole story.  There is another type: rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA in adults or JRA/JIA in children) is an autoimmune condition that is far more than aches and pains. Autoimmune diseaseNational Institute of Health:
can strike at any age, so children can and DO have this form of arthritis. According to the

Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is a type of arthritis that happens in children age 16 or younger. It causes joint swelling, pain, stiffness, and loss of motion. It can affect any joint, and in some cases it can affect internal organs as well.
One early sign of JRA may be limping in the morning. Symptoms can come and go. Some children have just one or two flare-ups. Others have symptoms that never go away. JRA causes growth problems in some children.
No one knows exactly what causes JRA. Scientists do know it is anautoimmune disorder, which means your immune system, which normally helps your body fight infection, attacks your body’s own tissues.

In fact, nearly 300,000 children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with some form of Juvenile Arthritis. It is believed that even more may suffer from this condition, but have been misdiagnosed with other diseases, or not diagnosed at all (read the article here.) Yet, it is one of the most common types of chronic childhood illness.

So, how do I handle the “kids don’t get arthritis” comments now? I head them off before they can be said. When asked what is wrong with my child, I now say “He has an autoimmune disease, where his body is attacking itself. It’s actually a form of juvenile arthritis.” I frame my response so that they understand how serious the issue is before I say its name, and the picture they create in their head couldn’t be further from your grandparent’s arthritis. In the meantime, I’ve avoided a frustration for both me and my children, while educating one more person that YES, Kids Get Arthritis Too!

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