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The LifeSpan Center’s goal is to provide information and education to the public through the entire “LifeSpan.”

With that in mind, many of us, myself included, assume the only sufferers of arthritis are older adults. However a staggering number of children also ache in the same way in their joints.

July is Juvenile Arthritis (JA) Awareness Month. According to the Arthritis Foundation, 300,000 youngsters age 16 and under deal with a differing variety of symptoms in the United States alone. This is not an isolated or stand-alone condition, as it includes other difficulties linked to autoimmune disorders. Here are six facts that I would like to share to help everyone increase their personal knowledge.

  1. Juvenile arthritis can actually cause different symptoms in each specific case and type. Many types of JA do include the common symptom of swelling. However, each type has particular concerns and varying symptoms. In fact, some types of JA don’t act like the “traditional” definition in any way and can affect the eyes, skin or even the digestive system.
  2. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases advises that many times the knees and feet are involved. Although some children may not let parents know they are experiencing pain, in most cases limping could be a factor in revealing a problem. Customarily, the change in walking pattern may be first thing in the morning as the joints are more likely to be stiff after a rest period.
  3. Genetic connection is unlikely and the Institute notes it is actually “very rare” to have multiple members of the family diagnosed with JA. However, because this is an autoimmune disease, families with a history of other autoimmune conditions may be at a higher risk.
  4. Girls are more at risk than boys according to HealthCentral.com, and most cases arise between the ages of 2 and 4 years old or in the teenage years. KidsGetArthritisToo.org advises that mild oligoarthritis (having less than five joints involved) is the most frequently occurring type of JA and it is usually observed in female children less than 9 years old.
  5. Unbelievably, arthritis and other rheumatic conditions have even accounted for deaths in youths in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fortunately, during the 20 year time period studied, the mortality rate fell by 25 percent. Perhaps this is due to improved access to information and early diagnosis.
  6. Treatment is available and, as per the Mayo Clinic, the focus is on improving the quality of life for these young persons. Differing medications can be utilized depending on the type of JA and individual symptoms. There is a group of prescriptions designed to hinder the advancement of the condition, and in some cases chemotherapy drugs have also been used to battle JA, in much lower doses than would be utilized for cancer patients. Physical therapy may also provide additional assistance in the treatment plan.

Juvenile arthritis is very real situation for an alarmingly high number of children. Be aware and make sure you bring it up or question your child’s pediatrician should you have any concerns.

The LifeSpan Center is located at 11021 E. County Road 800N, Charleston. The telephone number is 217-639-5150. The numbers for the programs are as follows: Coles County Telecare -- 217-639-5166; Family Care Giver Resource Center -- 217-639-5168 and Dial A Ride -- 217-639-5169 or 1-800-500-5505. See you at your LifeSpan Center.

Come join us each weekday at noon for “Lunch at LifeSpan.” Peace Meals are served Monday through Friday at a suggested donation of $3.50. To register, reserve a lunch or learn more, contact Peace Meal at 217-348-1800.

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