This Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, we’re taking a closer look at how arthritis can affect younger people. While many people associate arthritis with older ages, it can also appear in people at a much younger age. In fact, approximately 294,000 children in the United States are affected by juvenile arthritis.
Juvenile arthritis has a number of potential causes and varies in severity from person to person. Here’s a comprehensive summary of the condition and how you can support a child with juvenile arthritis in your life.
What is Juvenile Arthritis?
The most common type of arthritis that affects children is called juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). JIA is an umbrella term that covers several different chronic disorders involving inflammation of the joints. Common symptoms are:
- Joint pain
- Joint swelling
- Loss of motion
The various forms of JIA have different characteristic, including the pattern of affected joints and how inflamed other parts of the body are. JIA can last months or years, or it can be a chronic condition that will require treatment into adulthood and even throughout the individual’s life.
The exact causes of JIA are unknown. However, by its very nature, it always affects those aged under 16 and usually begins when the immune system becomes overactive and creates inflammation.
Most types of JIA are more common in girls. However, enthesitis-related JIA (a form of the disease that involves inflammation of the places where ligaments and tendons connect to bones) is more common in boys. Race and ethnicity are not thought to affect the likelihood of JIA.
How Can Juvenile Arthritis Affect a Child’s Development?
With the right treatment and support, most children can achieve periods of remission, where the symptoms are far less severe. Sometimes, the disease might even disappear permanently with no further need for treatment. The sooner therapy begins, the more likely this is.
JIA can affect a child’s development in a number of ways, even while undergoing treatment. Having restricted physical capabilities can lead to them being forced to sit out of social activities or not be able to participate in school as they would like. What’s more, children with chronic conditions are more likely to experience mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
Having an extra level of support can be a gamechanger for many children living with JIA. Homecare services can not only help with the day-to-day needs of an arthritic child, such as assisting with physical therapy and carrying out daily hygiene tasks, but also provide much-needed emotional support and companionship.
A caregiver can also help your child to learn to be more independent by supporting them in everyday tasks in the comfort of their own home. The more relaxed a child is, the more likely it is that they will respond well to therapy.
What To Do In July for Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month
In honor of July’s Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, you might be wondering what you can do to support other children with JIA. As mentioned above, many people don’t realize that arthritis can affect younger people. Being vocal about the condition and how it can affect young people could help someone you know spot the signs earlier.
A simple post on social media could go a long way, or chat to the people you care about in your community, perhaps at your church, local school, or any other communal spaces. You never know who might benefit from knowing what the warning signs of JIA are!