If you’ve ever met a child living with juvenile arthritis, you’ll find they’re not weak; they’re a warrior.
They endure multiple doctor appointments, deal with medications, undergo surgeries, and hurdle over fatigue to complete daily routines.
They’re children living with an adult disease.
Children living with juvenile arthritis have a hard time keeping up with their peers who don’t understand their condition. Parents try to make things perfect, but they can’t because they don’t live in their world.
What is Juvenile Arthritis?
Juvenile Arthritis (JA) is one of many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions or pediatric rheumatic diseases that is known to develop in children under the age of 16. Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is considered an autoinflammatory disease and is the most common type of arthritis in children. The immune system wrongly attacks the body’s tissues, causing inflammation in joints and potentially other areas of the body.
There are no know causes of JA and no single test to diagnose it. Symptoms include fever, low appetite, weight loss, anemia or a blotchy rash on the child’s arms and legs. There is no known cure and treatment may consist of a combination of medication, physical activity, eye care and balanced nutrition.
The importance of exercise
Although children with JA have less muscle strength and muscle endurance, they can still benefit from exercise. A Canadian study found that children ages 8 – 16 with JIA, ages 8 to 16, had improved confidence with physical activity, improved balance and overall improved physical abilities.
In another study, exercises that enhance balance was found to be important therapy in the treatment of children with JIA and lower extremity arthritis.
Juvenile arthritis camps
Nearly 300,000 children in the United States are living with some form of Juvenile Arthritis, but surprisingly, many are learning how to live beyond their perceived limitations. While their peers are at camp, they’re joining in the summer fun at camps designed just for them.
At juvenile arthritis residence camps, children are introduced to new skills and interests, taught how to gain a greater understanding of their own diagnosis and treatment, and meet other youth affected by JA. Activities depend on the location and age of the child and may include swimming, high and low ropes courses, arts and crafts and swimming. The camp is supervised by pediatric rheumatologists, rheumatology nurses and other healthcare professionals.
On the JA blog, a former camper who shared a memory of her experience at a JA camp, said that she wouldn’t have made it through a rough experience without the help and support of her peers.
Can a week at JA camp change lives? It can when children learn that even though they have JA, they refuse to allow the condition to control their lives.