A guide to understanding juvenile arthritis
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Considering how many people are affected by juvenile arthritis, it is a shame that more people aren't aware of it. Arthritis, especially in students and young people, is an often misunderstood and overlooked condition due to the common misconception that it only occurs in older people. Juvenile arthritis, meaning that the condition is discovered before the age of 16 is not uncommon – according to NRAS, there are between 1000-1500 children diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) every year in the U.K. One of the most common types of arthritis in young people is JIA (juvenile idiopathic arthritis), along with JRA (R standing for Rheumatoid). Idiopathic means that the cause is unknown. JIA was developed as a classification of arthritis to refine the broadness of JRA, hence they overlap, but are not completely different. There are several sub-types of JIA under this ‘umbrella’ term, including oligoarthritis, which affects between two and four joints in the first six months, and polyarthritis, which affects five or more joints in the first six months. There are two types of polyarthritis – one where a blood test produces a positive result for rheumatoid factor and the other that doesn’t. Arthritis is generally thought to be caused by the person’s immune system seeing the lining of joints as ‘foreign’ and subsequently attacking it, causing joint swelling and inflammation. Symptoms can include stiffness, pain, limping, fatigue, weight loss, eye problems and fever. Severe conditions where there are risks of long-term damage are treated with medication, which is usually a self-administered injection weekly. This medication can often have initial side effects such as sickness. The lack of understanding surrounding what juvenile arthritis is, and often an underestimation of its severity can make it difficult for students to cope, especially those living away from home.
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