“You’re too young to have arthritis.”
“It’s just growing pains.”
“The arthritis is temporary and can be cured by diet.”
You know the old saying, “Kids say the darndest things?” Well, kids hear the darndest things, too – especially when it comes to their juvenile arthritis (JA) diagnosis. The fact is, most people think of arthritis as an “old persons” disease, but that’s not the case. And, for more than 24,000 Canadian children who live with arthritis, active play can be a challenge.
March is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, and I’m on a mission to help bring awareness and build understanding about the disease.
Juvenile arthritis is an autoimmune disease. To put it simply, the immune system goes a little bit haywire and sends out white blood cells to attack the body’s own healthy cells. The result is inflammation in joints, as well as other health issues such as fatigue, rash, vision problems, slow growth or swollen lymph nodes, to name a few.
Children and teenagers can be affected by a variety of forms of arthritis, any of which can have potentially devastating effects on developing bodies. In fact, arthritis is one of the more common disorders resulting in chronic disability in children and teens in Canada.
However, juvenile arthritis symptoms often seem like they could be something else, which is why it can take a while before JA is diagnosed. I think parents are quick to attribute childhood joint pain to team sports or growth spurts – therefore, awareness and education are so important. I had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Lynn Spiegel, pediatric rheumatologist at SickKids, who communicated the significance of early detection and diagnosis, followed by an aggressive treatment plan.
As a parent, the words “aggressive treatment” scare the daylights out of me.
However, Dr. Spiegel emphasized early treatment with the most effective medications available probably carries less risk than uncontrolled JA, which can cause irreversible joint destruction. Early treatment also increases the chances for remission, which is defined as inactive disease for a set period of time.
The takeaway: with awareness, there is hope.
If you or someone you know has a child with juvenile arthritis, now is the time to support research, programs and other initiatives specifically targeted to addressing the challenges facing kids and families impacted by the disease.
AbbVie Canada, in partnership with The Arthritis Society, developed a comic book on childhood arthritis, giving kids (and parents) access to medical information they can understand. The digital version is available for download at www.arthritis.ca/childhood. I encourage you to take a look and share with loved ones. You can also donate to The Arthritis Society to help hand back childhood.
When a child is diagnosed with arthritis, there’s a lot to learn – for children and parents alike. This month, please help me spread awareness for juvenile arthritis by sharing this article or any of the links above. And the next time you hear someone say a child is “too young to have arthritis”, you’ll know where to send them for awareness and education.
This post is sponsored by AbbVie Canada. The opinions on this blog, as always, are my own.