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Well, this seemed like a pretty good excuse for a new post, don’t you think?

This week Arthritis Research UK are trying to raise awareness of arthritis in the UK, as well as doing a lot of fundraising events. In this spirit, I thought I’d try and give an insight into why research into arthritis is so important, and why we should all support Arthritis Research UK where possible.

Speaking from experience

My knowledge of arthritis is pretty much limited to what I’ve come across in my life by it happening to me, or from the Arthritis Research website – a very valuable resource for a curious teenager, I must say. However, even this fantastically informative site still can’t explain everything about JIA, because there is so much that we don’t know.

The actual cause of JIA – the trigger that sets the body’s immune system against itself – is completely unknown. And while the cause is unknown, it means that it can’t be spotted early. As I’ve already mentioned, there’s now evidence to suggest that if childhood arthritis is diagnosed within the first 12 weeks there is more chance of the child making a full recovery and suffering less joint damage.

Systemic-onset

While I say I have JIA, there’s actually a whole lot more to it than that. There are six different types of JIA – each one having a different impact on the body and the life of the child who has it. The most common type of JIA is Oligoarthritis, which affects one or both knees and is the most likely of all types of JIA to cause chronic anterior uveitis (basically arthritis in the eye – yes, it can even get there!). The rarest is systemic-onset JIA – this is the type I have, because apparently being one in 12,000 just wasn’t special enough for me!

Systemic-onset is the most difficult type of JIA to detect, as in the early stages there is usually no joint inflammation or pain. In fact, in this type of JIA the actual disease itself is not restricted to the joints – that is simply one symptom among many such as fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, rash and weight loss.

My initial symptoms were fever, tiredness and enlarged glands in my neck. For weeks my parents had been taking me to a GP for them to say it was a virus. Soon after, on another visit to the doctor, I was sent for a blood test as it was suspected that I might be anaemic – it was this blood test that formed my diagnosis.

I was admitted to hospital straight away, and while I was in hospital other symptoms began to show – raised temperatures at night, the infamous systemic-onset rash (which is so rare to see that a group of doctors all came to have a look for future reference), and eventually joint pain.

The Begging Bowl

Eventually the symptoms aside from the joint pain tend to die down – I only now suffer the weight loss and anaemia side if I have a flare-up which, while being a nice treat if you’re attempting to diet anyway, are mercifully rare.

I’d now like to just say, quite awkwardly, that if you enjoy reading this blog (or don’t, whatever) please consider donating some money to Arthritis Research UK here. And I promise I won’t ask again until the next National Arthritis Week.

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