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Uncommon juvenile arthritis a life-changer for patients

They’re common symptoms many parents know well but don’t like to see: high fevers and skin rashes; painful joints and stiffness.

Then there are the less-common signs: the excessive clumsiness, the swelling in the lymph nodes or other parts of the body, the eye inflammation. Sometimes, there’s even anemia, elevated auto-immune markers and high white blood cell counts.

The symptoms tend to manifest themselves in the knees, hands and feet, and they can be worse early in the morning or right after nap time.

But do they portend an infection? A case of the flu? Or something worse?

It turns out these are all signs of juvenile arthritis, an autoimmune issue that impacts an estimated 300,000 American youths under the age of 18, according to the National Institute of Health’s institute of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin disease.

With a national population estimated at 73.7 million children 17 and under, that qualifies it as a comparatively rare diagnosis. But for those kids and families who live with the condition, it’s nothing to ignore.

July is National Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month. While many questions remain as to what it is and what causes it, one thing is clear: this isn’t your grandmother’s case of osteoarthritis.

What is it?

What, exactly, is juvenile arthritis?

Well, for one thing, it isn’t really arthritis, in the sense that we’re used to. Also known as pediatric rheumatic disease, juvenile arthritis is actually an umbrella term used for the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that youngsters can develop, according to the Atlanta-based The Arthritis Foundation.

“It’s an auto-inflammatory (condition),” said Susan Kennemur, a family nurse practitioner at St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center’s Touchstone Health in Pueblo West. “The body is attacking itself.”

Cases may be acute, meaning temporary, or more…

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