Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
New International Version
One of the greatest sound in the world is the sound of children laughing. Their laughter is simply magical. Jesus loves the little children and so do I. July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, a month dedicated to increase awareness over early signs and symptoms of juvenile arthritis and to ease the focus of resources for this battle.
The campaign was initiated by the Arthritis Foundation and targets a condition that currently affects 300,000 children nationwide, making it one of the most common childhood diseases in the United States.
Arthritis is a complex family of disorders that destroy joints, bones, muscles, cartilage and other connective tissues. We usually associate arthritis with being old, but the truth is this condition can affect even from a young age, thus being called juvenile arthritis.
The term can be used to describe the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can develop in children under the age of 16 and affect physical movement.
The word “arthritis” means joint inflammation in Latin, but juvenile arthritis can include eyes, skin and gastrointestinal tract as affected areas. The disorder has a large variety in forms and researchers and doctors alike are working to better understand what the key differences are and how different approaches can help.
Similar to other disorders that have created the need for a full dedicated awareness month, getting an accurate diagnosis for juvenile arthritis is a complicated process. The diagnostic process can be long and painstaking, requiring a lot of patience from both parents and the child.
The crucial factor is to extract the length in time and type of symptoms present, from a complete health history. A careful physical exam, including x-rays and other imaging can help rule out other possible injuries as cause for the inflammation. Blood testing can reveal relatively little in terms of the diagnosis, but can exclude the possibility of an infection as a cause.
Three classifications of juvenile arthritis exist: juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), juvenile chronic arthritis (JCA), and juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), of which, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is the most common. The classification is made based on symptoms, number of joints involved and the presence of antibodies in the blood
At this moment there is no cure for juvenile arthritis. The custom approach to the disorder is to control pain levels, reduce inflammation and maintain mobility, while in more extreme cases surgery is the only possible solution to prevent further joint damage.
Many treatment plans are based on proper medication, therapeutically physical activities and healthy eating. Probably the most important component of any plan is the way in which all measures are included in a child’s daily schedule in order to affect the quality of life as little as possible.
There is no evidence to suggest a link with toxins from the environment or food compounds, thus, almost all forms of juvenile arthritis have no known cause. Some recent studies presume that there could be a genetic predisposition, which means that genes received from family members may cause the onset of arthritis when triggered by other factors.
Being diagnosed with a chronic illness diagnosis is difficult for anyone, but especially for children, because they are not emotionally equipped to handle the kind of situation. Full support is needed, from both family and friends. Having arthritis should be accepted as part of a child’s life, but not allowed to become the central focus.
Playing, learning and discovering the world step by step should remain the main activities for any child. Everyone has the right to a proper childhood, the perfect building block for a future succesful and happy individual.
There is also a good part in this otherwise sad story. Early obstacles occurring in life can mark an individual for the rest of his life, making him stronger and more resilient, and preparing the stage for bigger challenges to come.
Everyone can help in the fight against arthritis and the awareness month is the best opportunity for efforts to be joined in a louder and more coherent voice. E-advocacy can be a very powerful weapon and the key to success in changing government policies and funding.
E-Advocates speak out their opinions and personal stories and are able to write to their elected officials in order to showcase the full magnitude of the situation. Problems of individuals become problems of the community.
Vanessa Richardson is a guest columnist for The Sampson Independent.