What does it mean that I have a “chronic” disease?
A chronic disease has no cure. So you can’t really outgrow it. But, depending on what kind of arthritis you have, you could be symptom free (meaning no sign of diseases – no pain or swelling, for example) for long periods of time. Some research reports that as many as half of children diagnosed with JA grow up to live with almost no symptoms.
What does it mean to be “in remission?”
If you don’t have any symptoms for a long time, your doctor may decide you’re in remission. Your doctor will have to make the final call. Here’s what she will be looking for:
• No joints with active swelling, pain, heat
• No fever, rash, or swelling of the tissues lining the lungs, heart, abdomen, or organs
• No enlargement of the spleen or lymph nodes (your spleen is behind your tummy on the upper left)
• No active uveitis, or inflammation (redness or swelling) of the eye
You can be in remission whether or not you’re taking medicine.
• On meds, six months without symptoms = remission
• Without meds, 12 months without symptoms = remission
What is a “flare?”
A flare is when your arthritis symptoms rear their ugly heads or suddenly get worse. What triggers a flare? It’s not entirely clear, but these may help cause a flare in some kids:
• An infection (like if you get a flu or a cold)
• Stress (if you’re worried about a test or a school party)
• A lot of physical activity (you overdid it on the soccer field)
What does “rheumatic” mean?
Rheumatic diseases include any condition that causes pain and stiffness in joints and muscles. Doctors who specialize in treating joint and muscle problems are called rheumatologists. JA used to be called (and sometimes still is) juvenile rheumatoid arthritis because one of the symptoms is joint pain and stiffness.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is the swelling that occurs when your white blood cells are fighting against a bad-guy invader, like those germs we talked about. In the case of arthritis, the inflammation is hurting your own joints, bones, cartilage (flexible connective tissue between the joints and bones), and sometimes it can damage your heart, lungs, and eyes, too. Controlling inflammation – with medications, ice, and other therapies – is one of the main goals of JA treatment.
Why is JA called an “invisible” disease?
Another challenging good-and-bad part of having JA is that it doesn’t always show. You may look just dandy on the outside but feel worn out and achy on the inside. It may take you a few hours to warm up your joints and get out of bed in the morning, but to your friends it just looks like you get to cut early a.m. classes for no visible reason.