No one knows how it is to live with juvenile arthritis better than kids who have the disease. These now-teenagers share their experiences, both good and bad, about how this condition affected them, and what they did to not let it defeat them.
More than a disease in itself, juvenile arthritis is a blanket term used to describe several autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can affect children who are under the age of 16. Also known as pediatric rheumatic disease, this kind of arthritis affects more than 300,000 kids in the United States alone. Similar to arthritis in adults, the symptoms of juvenile arthritis include swelling in the joints, pain and stiffness that may cause limping, and high fevers. However, these symptoms can differ in each child, and can come and go. While some children affected by juvenile arthritis may experience the symptoms for just a few months, others might have to deal with the symptoms for the rest of their lives.
There are different subtypes of juvenile arthritis, with the most common one being juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). Other types of this health condition include juvenile dermatomyositis, juvenile scleroderma, mixed connective tissue disease, and fibromyalgia.
For children who have juvenile arthritis, carrying out everyday tasks might become a bit more challenging as compared to the children who aren’t affected by this condition. However, this in no way means that they need to give up all activities that other children can participate in. With the right treatment and the support of family members, the symptoms of juvenile arthritis can be controlled, and your children can enjoy all activities that their friends are engaged in. Perhaps it is difficult for others to understand the exact challenges that children with juvenile arthritis have to face, and what can be done to help them. But there are many children who have dealt well with this condition, and achieved many academic and other milestones successfully. And who better to tell you about their experiences than the children themselves? These three teenagers, who were diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, share their stories about the challenges they faced, how they coped with the disease, and how their determination helped them overcome the condition.
When Abby first started experiencing pain in her limbs, her parents thought that it was just growing pains. But the pain never went away; she would limp, and even find it difficult to hold a cup with her fingers. On visiting the doctor, Abby was referred to a rheumatologist, who saw definite signs of juvenile arthritis and started her on medications right away. In 2011, Abby was diagnosed with polyarticular juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and the rheumatologist told her that she had developed arthritis in almost every single joint in her body, including the jaw. Among the first course of treatments, Abby was prescribed methotrexate, which was to be injected once a week. This was one of the toughest parts for Abby, as she was extremely scared of needles. Her nervousness was so much that she would throw up almost every week before getting the shot. Applying numbing cream, playing music, and other such efforts were put in to make the experience less harrowing for the child. Unfortunately, the medicine wasn’t very kind on Abby. “I would feel so sick for the next 48 hours,” she recollects.
The rheumatologist then switched Abby to methotrexate in the form of pills, which were much better for her. In addition, she was given Enbrel every five days. But there was more pain in store for Abby— her muscles started hurting, and she was soon diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Although she was in immense pain, Abby wanted to hide it from everyone as she did not want anyone to think of her as someone who is different. This is not an easy job, but her family understood, and this resolute girl is now fighting the pain without anyone coming to know about it. “My mom says I am the toughest person she knows,” says Abby, and she admits that although it is quite a struggle, people do get used to it. Also, she found much relief once the medicines started working. This teen is determined to not let her health condition bother her, and this is what she has to say to children affected with juvenile arthritis—“Know that you can do it, and never give up!”
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