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Catching Arthritis Early Is Important in
May. 23, 2007
Raleigh — Arthritis is the leading cause
of disability in this country, affecting 46 million adults in one or
another of its forms. In children, an estimated 285,000 have some form
of juvenile arthritis.
rheumatoid arthritis, so-named because it can develop in early
childhood, is one of the most harmful forms. By the time it's
recognized, irreversible damage to the joints may already be done. That
makes early diagnosis and treatment vital.
One who knows well is Grace Danuck. When she was 3 years old, her
parents noticed she was moving slowly.
I did get a high fever and swelling in some joints — I believe, the
knees,” Danuck said.
juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. She needed hip surgery at age 7, but
then seemed to grow out of the disease until after college.
to North Carolina. Six months later, my knees started swelling up like
balloons,” Danuck recalled.
She had the disease in its adult form.
She's had two hips replaced and one knee. She can't bend over to put on
her own socks, so she has special aids.
children today who suffer the juvenile form of rheumatoid arthritis,
treatment and recommendations have changed from what doctors advised
when Danuck was a girl.
wouldn't allow her to play like other children.
“Now,” she said,
“it's really just the opposite. All the rheumatologists will tell you
you have to move, you have to keep the range of motion.”
is especially good in a near-weightless environment that's easy on the
“I go to
the pool. I swim. I try to go a couple of times a week. I come out of
there like, like I have a new body,” she said.
can stop the joint pain and even slow the progression of the disease.
Danuck will never be able to move any better than she can now, but she
said she believes regular exercise is the key to doing the best she
to keep moving. It's important to me to just keep going,” she said.
can help protect their children by spotting symptoms early. Look for
joint pain and swelling. There can be sudden high fever. Juvenile
rheumatoid arthritis can develop early enough that a child won't crawl
on its knees like other babies.
disease is diagnosed, doctors are more aggressive than they once were
in treating it, prescribing stronger "disease modifying anti-rheumatic
drugs" or D-MARDS. Arthritis is an autoimmune disease, so research is
focused on finding ways to stop the immune system from attacking joints
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