By Darien Pollock, Communications and Grant Writing Specialist
Often considered one of the most publicly ignored chronic diseases to date, juvenile arthritis continues to be a pressing American health issue, affecting numerous adolescents from various social backgrounds. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), almost 300,000 children in America, under the age of 18, are officially diagnosed with the disease. Given that rheumatic diseases are commonly presumed to be illnesses that are exclusive to adults, particularly the elderly, identifying and treating childhood arthritis, in its early stages, is an extraordinarily difficult medical task—not to mention the fact that the disease’s symptoms (e.g., high fever and skin rash, swelling in various parts of the body, especially in the neck lymph nodes, etc.) often resemble other chronic sicknesses.
Along with its more obvious disease symptoms, like other chronic illnesses, juvenile arthritis also generates many subtle symptomatic effects, such as causing a child to consistently limp in the morning because of a stiff knee or excessive clumsiness.
Keeping these seemingly less harmful symptoms in mind, parents and guardians of children diagnosed with adolescent arthritis must always remain mindful of how the disease interrupts the child’s life socially. Physicians often encourage parents to have regular discussions with their child about how the disease is affecting their interpersonal interactions, as well as to maintain regular communication with each school, organization and/or program in which the child participates. While there is still much to learn about juvenile arthritis, a number of different health and academic institutions are conducting valuable research, in order to provide effective solutions for children with the disease who, for example, suffer from insomnia, anemia, or pain that interrupts ordinary day-to-day functioning.
At Whittier Street Health Center, our efforts are focused on ensuring that children, from all walks of life, are equipped with the appropriate tools and resources needed to combat juvenile arthritis. An illness that affects thousands of children’s lives in Boston alone, we fully understand that the city and community in which we serve is not excluded from the health and social stressors that are inevitable byproducts of this disease, which motivates us, every day, to serve all of our patients with the utmost compassion and concern.