When most people hear that word arthritis, they immediately associate it with adults — especially older individuals. While the Arthritis Foundation does report that close to 50% of people over age 65 do have some form of arthritis, many younger individuals are also living with it.
In fact, two-thirds of those diagnosed are under age 65. You might be surprised to know that some 300,000 children of varying ages are a part of this group! The month of July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness month.The purpose is to educate parents and others on this painful condition and help them to support children who bravely battle it each day. Why not test your current knowledge on this important subject?
Juvenile Arthritis (JA) is a rather broad term for several forms of childhood disease that affect the joints and musculoskeletal system. Many of these diseases share common symptoms such as pain, swelling, inflammation, tenderness and redness. Yet, each disease has additional symptoms not shared between forms and a set of unique medical concerns.
The most common form in children is considered to be Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA), previously referred to as Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA). The onset of this condition generally takes place before age 16 with symptoms lasting for 6 weeks. To name just a few, symptoms can include:
- Joint pain or stiffness
- Muscle weakness
While not forms of arthritis themselves, several diseases include it as one of their primary symptoms and therefore are often linked. This is the case with lupus, which affects the immune system causing joint pain and other symptoms. The same can be said of fibromyalgia, which is a chronic pain syndrome and dermatomyositis, an inflammatory disease.
Does your child suffer from some form of arthritis? As mentioned, JIA can encompass and be related to many other conditions. That means that both the causes and symptoms of one child’s pain may differ from that of another. Therefore, various methods treatment are necessary.
Medication for managing pain, therapy to reduce stiffness and strengthen muscles and nutritional counseling are just a few of the options available. Of course, your child’s doctor can discuss with you what treatments will be most effective for you child’s particular condition. But besides just ensuring that your child receives medical attention and treatment, what can you do to provide daily support?
No doubt it can be frustrating for a youngster to struggle daily with not feeling well or having difficulty doing activities they enjoy, like playing sports. What can you do to make things a bit easier?
Encourage them to stick with their treatment plan. Treatment or even lifestyle changes suggested by your child’s doctor can go a long way in alleviating pain and allowing for a better quality of life. While it may not always be fun or convenient, encourage your child to stick with it knowing that it’s in their best interest.
Promote acceptance. Don’t push your child to do any more than they can or should. Also, remind them not to push themselves too hard, which could easily make things worse. Recognizing and accepting current limitations doesn’t mean giving up hope that things will get better. It just means that until things do improve with time and treatment, your child should only do what he or she reasonably can.
Shift the focus. While coping with the disease may be a big part of your lives, it doesn’t have to be the center. By focusing on positive things and enjoying activities and time together, you can help your child to avoid discouragement.
It’s unfortunate that so many children are living with JA. However, there’s plenty that can be done to make sure that your child is as comfortable and as happy as possible despite the diagnosis.