Local Network Coordinator, CCAA
In the UK, approximately one in every 1,000 children have JIA (juvenile idiopathic arthritis). It can start at any age from birth to adolescence and affects both boys and girls.
Parents may notice a swollen joint, a new limp, a reluctance to use a limb or even a regression from walking to crawling. Pain is not always a feature as children often adapt movements so it can be difficult to spot. Even many GPs are not aware that it is a diagnosis that should be considered. However, the impact of the condition must not be underestimated.
There are several subtypes of JIA and about 10% of children have SJIA (systemic onset juvenile idiopathic arthritis) – this is characterised by spiking fevers and rashes that may come and go as well as the more typical JIA joint swelling and pain. With SJIA, there may be inflammation around organs of the body such as the heart and lungs, so it can become serious if left untreated.
While in the past, many children with JIA went on to develop serious disability and deformity, modern medicine has moved on apace and now there is a plethora of treatment options meaning that most children can live a full and active life with JIA. For many, treatment is so effective that it becomes an ‘invisible illness’ – this can make life difficult for families.
For many, treatment is so effective that it becomes an ‘invisible illness’ – this can make life difficult for families.
Treatments for JIA often come with unpleasant side effects that can be harder to manage than the arthritis itself, children know that they are ‘different’ to their peers which can affect their self-esteem and the variable nature of the arthritis with its periods of flare and remission can be hard to explain and understand.
At CCAA, we offer children and families support both through our local area groups as well as our family residential weekends. Peer support is vital to help families cope and siblings who are often impacted by their brother or sister’s condition are included. We understand the roller-coaster journey that families are on and are able to help them along the way.