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Arthritis – not just a disease of old age

03 October 2012


Arthritis is not a disease which just affects the elderly. The paediatric rheumatology team at Southend University Hospital regularly sees young patients with the condition whose ages range from as young as two years up to their teens.

These youngsters and their parents and siblings will be getting  together with other families to share experiences at a special open afternoon at the hospital next week.

Paediatric and rheumatology doctors, nurses and physiotherapists will also be on hand to answer any questions and provide information.

The team is hoping the event will be even more successful than the previous open day two years ago, so that the profile of juvenile arthritis is raised and patients and their parents and carers no longer feel so isolated by the condition.

Among those attending will be Libby Mackerness, five, from Woodside Avenue, Benfleet and three-year-old Rosie Jupp from Leigh.

Libby was nearly two when doctors at Southend University Hospital diagnosed polyarticular arthritis. But before that she had spent a week in a plaster caste when doctors at another hospital wrongly diagnosed a broken knee cap.

Libby's mum, Sarah, said: "One of Libby's knees had swollen up and she could not straighten her leg properly.

"Within three months of coming to Southend, she had been diagnosed and treatment had started. I cannot fault the care we have received there - it is excellent and everyone is really lovely."

Sarah, who also has a nine-year-old son Quinn, now gives her daughter weekly injections of the anti-rheumatic drug methotrexate.

She says: "She is responding very well. If anything, the condition has made her a more determined and stubborn little girl.

"The open day is a great idea. When Libby started play school she used to ask all the other children if they had injections too as she thought it was normal. Meeting other children with the same condition will do her the world of good and we will be pleased to chat with other parents."       

Rosie's mother, Louise, agreed. "It is going to be brilliant. Arthritis in children is not that rare but no-one really knows about it and it can make you feel quite isolated.

"We have never met parents with children with the same condition - Rosie had not been diagnosed when the team held the last open day - and it will be fascinating to chat with them."

Paediatric rheumatology consultant, Dr Frances Borg, said: "Over the last few years there have been huge advances in medical treatments and support available to children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis, such that we now expect these young people to be able to lead full and normal lives.  We would encourage parents whose children have persistently painful or swollen joints to visit their GP to be referred to the rheumatology team for assessment."

The event takes place on Tuesday, October 9 between 4.30pm and 6.30pm in the rheumatology outpatients department, situated at the rear of the hospital.