Clovis teen shares journey living with juvenile arthritis

According to The American College of Rheumatology, around 300,000 children in the country are diagnosed with juvenile arthritis.

Amanda Aguilar Image
Tuesday, July 9, 2024 12:30AM
Clovis teen shares journey living with juvenile arthritis
Most think of it as a disease that only impacts older adults, but according to Central Valley doctors, there's a growing population of children who are getting diagnosed.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month.

Most think of it as a disease that only impacts older adults, but according to Central Valley doctors, there's a growing population of children who are getting diagnosed.

Swollen fingers and swollen toes are now a daily part of Maddison Lopez's mornings.

She was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis when she was 11 years old -- after a weeks-long headache, as well as joint pain and swelling.

"It was kind of nice to know," said Brittany Johnson, Lopez's mom. "Now we can actually take steps to help fix whatever this is, but knowing that it's an autoimmune, I know that it's not going to just go away, but that it's going to be a lifelong battle for her."

Lopez is now 15 years old, and often struggles with daily activities.

"Why is picking up a hairbrush that's a struggle, or toothbrush," she asked. "It's getting a little better now."

According to The American College of Rheumatology, around 300,000 children in the country are diagnosed with juvenile arthritis.

At Valley Children's Hospital, doctors said they're serving a huge population with this condition.

"We need to make sure we don't miss it because we want to save those little joints," said Dr. Reshma Patel.

Patel, a pediatric rheumatologist, said arthritis can impact kids 16 years and younger.

There's no known cause. However, research shows genetics can play a role but also exposure to certain things, such as an infection.

"I like to say that lock, you know, that password on our phone. You got to get all those digits correct to unlock and turn things on," Dr. Patel explained. "So there are things that trigger a light switch to turn on for these children."

It's important juvenile arthritis is treated, or Dr. Patel said it could lead to permanent joint damage.

Maddison and her mom are thankful for the medications she's on, which allow her to still shine on the soccer field.

Of course, Maddison knows she has limits.

"I'll have to just step off to the side, if my knees start hurting," she shared. "I'm like, 'This is going to make me lose my mind,' because I just want to play and I can't."

As she gets older, due to family history and her autoimmune disease, Maddison becomes more at risk for lupus.

For now, she and her family are thankful for the health that she has today.

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