Nashville, TN - July 1, 2013 - Juvenile arthritis is one of the most common chronic illnesses affecting children, yet it often goes undetected or misdiagnosed when symptoms first appear. This July, Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, the Arthritis Foundation is focusing on increasing awareness of early signs and symptoms of juvenile arthritis and resources available for families affected by the disease.

Often a child complaining of achy joints is diagnosed as having “growing pains,” a phenomenon believed to be the result of the natural growth process. Now it’s known that joint pain, stiffness and swelling in or around the joint may be early signs of a serious, inflammatory rheumatic disease.

“When joint pain, swelling or stiffness occurs in one or more of your child’s joints for at least six weeks, it’s important not to assume these symptoms are temporary, and to get a proper diagnosis from a pediatric arthritis specialist,” says Arthritis Foundation Vice President of Public Health Policy and Advocacy, Dr. Patience White. “Early medical treatment of juvenile arthritis can prevent serious, permanent damage to your child’s joints and enable her to live an active, full childhood.”

Contrary to general belief, infants, children and teenagers can get arthritis. Approximately 300,000 children are affected by juvenile arthritis. While there is no known cure, there has never been a more optimistic outlook for children with juvenile arthritis. Advances in research have produced new treatments that moderate and even stop the effects of juvenile arthritis, preventing significant disability in later years.

In a continued effort to reduce the heavy burden of juvenile arthritis, disability and cost of this chronic disease, the Arthritis Foundation is leading the way to conquer this disease through increasing:

  • Awareness and support:
    • Juvenile Arthritis Conference – Taking place July 18-21 at the Hyatt Regency Orange County hotel in Anaheim, California, the nationwide conference is held annually for families affected by juvenile arthritis and other rheumatic diseases.  Specific educational tracks focus on issues relating to parents, teens/young adults, children affected by arthritis and their siblings. In addition, the conference offers families a chance to network with each other and learn new techniques for managing juvenile arthritis and other rheumatic diseases.
    • JA Camp – Camp AcheAway - A week-long outdoor camp experience developed specifically for kids with arthritis will be held at Camp Widjiwagan July 21-26.  Camp is designed to teach children living with JA to overcome obstacles, build independence, and meet other kids sharing the same needs and experiences.  Camp AcheAway provides children with arthritis a safe, educational and fun way to learn how to cope with their disease.  The campsite is adaptable to all limitations so campers can engage in all activities from wall climbing and kayaking to dancing and yoga.  Registration for 2013 is now closed, but if you are interested in more information or other JA events please contact our office at 615.254.6795.
    • Family days- JA Family Days take place throughout the year in Tennessee.  The whole family is invited to come meet other families going through similar challenges, share stories, learn more about arthritis and to have fun! Parents will have an opportunity to gather for a networking session about juvenile arthritis issues, while the kids take part in volunteer led activities. Please visit the events page of www.arthritis.org/tennessee for more information. 
  • AdvocacyEleven states do not have a single specialist to treat children with juvenile arthritis. Arthritis advocates speak out for federal support to train more pediatric rheumatologists and for more research funding to help children with all forms of juvenile arthritis.
  • Research
    • Advancing the Quality of Life for Children with Arthritis – Formore than 60 years, the Arthritis Foundation has been a leader in advancing treatments and a cure for juvenile arthritis. Currently, the Arthritis Foundation funds researchers working in the field of juvenile arthritis, totaling a commitment of more than $1.1 million in 2013. These researchers are investigating a wide range of topics, from how environmental and genomic factors might play a role in triggering juvenile arthritis, to collecting data and evaluating the efficacy of standardized treatment plans, to the development and testing of a smart phone app to help children cope with pain. The Arthritis Foundation also is proud to provide $2.4 million in grant money to date to support the Childhood Arthritis & Rheumatology Research Alliance (CARRA), a national organization of pediatric rheumatologists who have joined together to answer critical research questions.
    • Juvenile Arthritis Registry – Efforts to track drug side effects and establish treatment benchmarks through a registry aim to benefit future juvenile arthritis treatments.

More information on juvenile arthritis and resources for families is available on the Arthritis Foundation website at http://www.arthritis.org/juvenile-arthritis.php.

About the Arthritis Foundation

Striking one in every five adults and 300,000 children, arthritis is the nation’s leading cause of disability.  The Arthritis Foundation (www.arthritis.org) is committed to raising awareness and reducing the unacceptable impact of this serious and painful disease, which can severely damage joints and rob people of living life to its fullest.  The Foundation funds life-changing research that has restored mobility in patients for more than six decades; fights for health care policies that improve the lives of the millions who live with arthritis; and partners with families to provide empowering programs and information. 

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