March is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month! What? Are you scratching your head? If you are, please know that arthritis is a condition not exclusive to the elderly. More than 24,000 Canadian kids live with arthritis, and for young bodies in a constant state of growth and development, the condition can be debilitating. Can you imagine sitting out games, choosing not to climb the tree with the other kids, or giving up organized sports due to joint pain and inflammation when you are 10? While most people think of arthritis as an “old persons” disease, arthritis is actually one of the more common disorders resulting in chronic disability in children and teens in Canada.
I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Lynn Spiegel, a pediatric rheumatologist at SickKids Hospital in Toronto to discuss juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), the most common type of arthritis in children. In the podcast below, she explains the impact of this condition on growth, self-esteem and movement. Treatment has progressed exponentially in her professional career and quality of life has been dramatically improved for kids with this disability. Additionally, for the first time in history, the illness has received so much attention that resources abound.
One project into which Dr. Spiegel has poured her soul is a support website called ‘Teens Taking Charge: Managing JIA Online Program’, which is now publicly available on aboutkidshealth.ca. The site contains modules that assist teens living with the condition. There are also two sections to assist parents and caregivers. It includes not only information about JIA, its treatments, and self-management strategies (for example, how to deal with physical symptoms like pain, stiffness, fatigue and emotional symptoms like anxiety and depression), but also facilitates peer support through discussion boards, as well as videos featuring patients, their families, and health-care providers offering instruction, personal insight and inspiration.
A second fun and colourful resource is an online comic book entitled MediKidz Online, giving kids (and parents) access to medical information they can easily understand. Developed via a partnership between AbbVie Canada and The Arthritis Society developed a comic book on childhood arthritis, giving kids (and parents) access to medical information they can understand.
Raising awareness and educating the public about JIA is critical to helping this life-long chronic condition be understood. The digital version is available for free download at www.arthritis.ca/childhood.
Dr. Spiegel is a brilliant pediatric rheumatologist and I hope you enjoy the interview. Please share these resources widely so that we can all support kids living with arthritis.
Disclosure: This important article was made possible through the support of Abbvie Canada. All opinions are our own.