What is Juvenile Arthritis?

what-is-juvenile-arthritis

Nearly 300,000 children have been diagnosed with some form of juvenile arthritis in the U.S.* Each year, the Arthritis National Research Foundation provides a number of grants to this particular form of arthritis research. Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA) is actually quite prevalent, affecting more than 50,000 children in the United States alone. When Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis first shows its symptoms in a child’s body, many parents write off swollen joints and fever as a flu bug, or think that a sudden rash might have occurred from an allergic reaction. The symptoms might even recede slightly before showing up again, sometimes delaying diagnosis for quite some time. After all, who expects a small child to have arthritis?

Most people don’t know that kids get arthritis, too. A child’s immune system is not fully formed until about age 18; so an “autoimmune” form of arthritis is especially virulent in children, compromising their ability fight normal diseases and leaving them open to complications that may affect their eyes, bone growth, etc.

Why is JRA different?

Different forms of arthritis have varying life spans and degree of symptoms, but JRA is different – it’s an autoimmune disease that has the body actually warring with itself in its efforts to recover. While Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, much like the adult version of Rheumatoid Arthritis, recent arthritis research shows that JRA stands alone, independent in how it actually attacks and affects a child’s body.

JRA normally appears in children as young as 6 months and as old as 18 years. Young adults still suffer the pain of the juvenile forms of arthritis. Joint pain, reddened joints and swelling that simply refuses to dissipate are the key symptoms. Rheumatologists are finding that the number of joints affected has a parallel connection to the severity of the disease and the likelihood of achieving total remission.

What is ANRF doing?

Here at the Arthritis National Research Foundation, we focus part of our research effort on JRA, even awarding a $100,000 grant yearly – The Kelly Award – to a researcher focused solely on JRA treatments and cures. Thanks to your continued tax-deductible donations and research sponsorship, our grant recipients are making significant progress in their research.

The second Kelly Award recipient, Dr. Altan Ercan at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, is studying the role of the immune system during the cause and tissue destruction phases of JRA. His work may lead to a better understanding of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and provide novel targets for new therapies.

The third recipient, Dr. Scott Canna, who is now at the National Institutes of Health, is Macrophage Activation Syndrome (MAS). MAS is a life-threatening complication of a number of rheumatic illnesses, particularly systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis. MAS manifests as the rapid onset of severe systemic inflammation. Dr. Canna’s work hopes to better understand MAS and it’s triggers to help prevent inflammation.

Meet the Children

Over our 40-plus years, we’ve gotten to know many children with JRA – from Chloe, who first showed symptoms at 12 months of age, to ANRF Board Director Kelly Rouba, who has lived 29 years with the disease. Even Pro Golfer Kristy McPherson was diagnosed at the age of 11 with JRA, and is a strong supporter of ANRF’s research as a spokesperson and Board Director.

Learn more about the Kelly Award and stories of children living with juvenile arthritis.

How you can help

With your charitable donations, you can help us continue the research and advances that help JRA kids live the happy, healthy lives they deserve.

Make a tax-deductible donation today. Use the drop-down menu to designate your donation for juvenile arthritis research.

* statistics from the CDC, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, www.CDC.gov

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