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July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month

Jamie’s Journey with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

It was supposed to be a normal afternoon at home for Jamie Briceno until she found out that her son, Jaxton, was having problems with his ankle. Initially, she thought nothing of it. However, Jaxton’s swollen ankle affected his ability to walk, prompting the Bricenos to rush to the nearest emergency hub.

Upon arrival, the doctor ordered X-rays, but to their surprise, there was no explicit evidence of a broken bone. Although the results were normal, the doctor kept Jaxton at the hospital for exploratory surgery at Children’s Hospital Colorado. But before the surgery, the doctor re-ordered another X-ray, which revealed the truth: Jaxton had juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA).

Although the Bricenos were relieved that surgery was unnecessary, they were also confused that Jaxton had arthritis. Jamie, in particular, thought arthritis was only an adult thing. However, the diagnosis taught them an important lesson: arthritis does not exempt any age. Even a 9-year-old like Jaxton can experience it.

Over the following months, Jaxton received various treatments from Dr. Patwardhan of MU Health Care. After two years of hard work and providing their son with the best care possible, the Bricenos’ efforts paid off. Jaxton had recovered and was able to reclaim his love for soccer.

The Bricenos’ story shows the importance of awareness and knowledge about juvenile arthritis. This July, during juvenile arthritis awareness month, we will discuss the illness and how we can work together to raise awareness about it across the globe.

Juvenile Arthritis: Raising Awareness and Mobilizing Campaign

Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month is an annual campaign held in July to raise awareness about juvenile arthritis in children and teenagers.

The campaign aims to educate the public and families about the signs, symptoms, and challenges associated with juvenile arthritis. It also strives to provide support and resources for children and their families to address the condition.

This month is marked with various events, such as educational workshops, community drives, and online campaigns. These initiatives promote early detection and diagnosis, effective treatment, and improved quality of life for children and young adults with juvenile arthritis.

According to Dr. Sampath Prahalad, a pediatric rheumatologist at Emory University School of Medicine, “Juvenile arthritis is a chronic illness that can have a profound impact on a child’s development and quality of life. Early diagnosis and appropriate management are key to reducing pain, joint damage, and the potential for disability”

What is juvenile arthritis?

Juvenile arthritis is a group of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that affect individuals under 16. It is not a single disease but rather a collection of various forms of arthritis. According to research, juvenile arthritis results from genetic, environmental, and immunological factors.

It has different types, including:

Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)

JIA is the most common type of juvenile arthritis, characterized by chronic joint pain, swelling, and stiffness that last a month or longer.

Systemic Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

This type of JIA involves joint inflammation associated with high fever and skin rash. It also affects body organs.

Enthesitis-Related Arthritis

This type affects the entheses, the connective tissues between ligaments and tendons. It usually occurs in the lower parts of the body.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Children with psoriasis may also develop psoriatic arthritis, best described by joint inflammation and skin changes.

Juvenile Lupus

Lupus is an autoimmune condition that affects multiple body organs, including the joints. When the disease occurs in children, it is called juvenile lupus.

What are the symptoms of juvenile arthritis?

The symptoms of juvenile arthritis depend on the specific type. Here are the most common:

  • Joint pain
  • Joint swelling
  • Joint stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Limited mobility
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Eye problems

What causes this condition?

The exact cause of juvenile arthritis is unclear. However, research shows that it is likely a reason for genetic, environmental, and immunological factors.

Genetic Factors

Specific family genes can increase the risk of developing juvenile arthritis. However, they do not guarantee that a child will develop the condition.

Autoimmune Dysfunction

Research suggests that juvenile arthritis is an autoimmune disease. It means that the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues and cells. However, it is unclear why the immune system dysfunctions this way, but research claims that it is because of the combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Environmental Triggers

Infection and exposure to microorganisms may play a role in the development of juvenile arthritis. However, the research did not identify any specific triggers.

How to treat and manage juvenile arthritis?

Follow these approaches to treat and manage juvenile arthritis effectively.

Medications

Use nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Doctors prescribe these medications to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Other medicines include disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors.

Physical Therapy

This therapy maintains joint mobility and strengthens muscles. Physical therapists provide exercises and techniques to manage symptoms and maintain overall body function.

Exercise and Activity

Regular exercise is essential to maintain joint mobility and muscle coordination. Doctors and therapists usually recommend low-impact activities like swimming, cycling, and walking.

Use of Supportive Devices

Therapists use assistive devices such as splints, braces, or orthotics. These devices support and improve joint stability.

Since the exact cause of juvenile arthritis is unknown, it can be difficult to prevent the condition. However, with early detection and diagnosis, addressing it with effective medical measures can help alleviate and control the symptoms.

In addition to medical treatment, creating a supportive environment for the child is essential. It involves providing emotional support and encouraging a healthy lifestyle, including balanced nutrition, regular exercise, and stress management.

Be Part of the Movement

By raising awareness about juvenile arthritis, the hope is to reduce the misconceptions surrounding the condition and facilitate early intervention.

There are several ways to raise awareness about juvenile arthritis:

Organize an event: Host a fundraiser or awareness event in your community. You can team up with local businesses, schools, or organizations to spread the word about juvenile arthritis.

Share your story: Sharing your own experiences or the experiences of someone close to you can help educate others about juvenile arthritis and its impact on individuals and families. Connect with others through social media, support groups, or community events.

Wear blue for Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month: In July, wear blue in support of juvenile arthritis awareness. Share your picture on social media using the hashtag #StrongerThanJA to help raise awareness and show support.

Educate others: Educate your community about the signs and symptoms of juvenile arthritis, as early diagnosis and treatment are crucial. Encourage others to seek medical attention if they suspect juvenile arthritis.

Support research: Donate to research initiatives focused on finding better treatments and a cure for juvenile arthritis. Spread awareness about the importance of research and its role in improving the lives of individuals with juvenile arthritis.

If you know someone affected by juvenile arthritis, consult healthcare professionals and seek appropriate treatment. Additionally, organizations such as the Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatology Research Alliance (CARRA) and Arthritis Foundation offer significant resources and support for children and families dealing with juvenile arthritis.

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