JRA 101: Understanding Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
What comes to mind when you think about Arthritis? It is a common misconception that Arthritis patients battle with this disease after they are over 50 years old. But the reality is that Arthritis can affect people of all ages, even kids.
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) is an auto-immune disease that attacks healthy joint tissue causing persistent pain and inflammation. Treatment plans vary depending on the type of Juvenile Arthritis and the severity of the symptoms, including persistent joint pain, swelling of the affected area, warmth, stiffness, loss of motion, rashes, fever, and growth problems. Even though treatment plans vary, they all focus on managing pain and slowing down or preventing the progression of JRA.
JRA can affect children from 4 years old to 16 years old. According to the Arthritis Foundation, this disease affects 300,000 children and teenagers in the United States. Clear ideas on the cause have yet to be identified. However, doctors believe a mix of genes and environmental factors contribute to the development of JRA.
Although the numbers might seem small compared to the number of children living in the United States, the reality is that JRA can be a severe and prolonged challenge for those living with the disease. Take it from someone with the unique perspective of battling this during their childhood. The constant visits to the doctor, the blood works, and the constant changing of prescriptions can be overwhelming for the patient and their family.
I remember getting blood samples every three months and having my prescriptions and treatment options constantly changing because the symptoms kept constantly fluctuating. I regularly woke up on school days with a swollen wrist or hip and had to struggle through my classes in order to live a somewhat normal life. It is an exhausting and painful journey.
During this period, some teachers were supportive, but others dismissed the severity of what I dealt with as a teen living with JRA. Despite the lack of help from some of my teachers, what helped me was having a solid support system of friends and family members. Doctors encourage patients living with JRA to keep active lives inside of school and outside.
JRA symptoms can last a few months, years, or even a lifetime. Therefore, it is imperative to routinely visit your doctor and manage your treatment plan as needed. If you are close to someone living with JRA, we encourage you to learn more about it and discover ways to be an effective part of their support system.
To learn more about Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, talk to your doctor or visit www.rheumatology.org.