Loading slideshow

Childhood Arthritis as 'common as childhood diabetes' yet treatment options are scarce: doctors

By Michael Edwards

Arthritis is a problem normally associated with old age, but thousands of Australian children are also afflicted by the condition and a national shortage of specialist doctors is only making the problem worse.

The disease is now as common as childhood diabetes, yet doctors say there are limited treatment options available.

Most states only have one or two specialists with expertise in juvenile arthritis, while Tasmania and the Northern Territory have none at all.

Doctors are aiming to bring the situation to light as part of Arthritis Week, by sharing the experiences of families coping with the disease.

Scott Milne has seen his now six-year-old son Ronan suffer his entire life.

"When he was born, everything seemed normal and unfortunately he started crying in absolute agony five or six times every night," Mr Milne said.

"I'd have to rock him to sleep and he just wouldn't sleep. It was a nightmare, we couldn't get a diagnosis."

Ronan's troubles continued, and so did the misdiagnoses, until he was two years old.

"We thought he'd broken his wrist and an X-ray showed that it wasn't broken.

"Then we thought it must have been sprained, it wasn't sprained, it just didn't get better.

"It was twice the size and frozen. He'd hyperextend his fingers instead of moving his wrists because he just couldn't move his wrists at all and his fingers are still hyperextendable.

"Unfortunately it just didn't get better and then we ... went to the doctor and his big toe on the right foot was about twice the size, and eventually he was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis."

6,000 Australian children suffering from arthritis

In the four years since, Ronan has continued to lived in crippling pain.

"He still wakes up occasionally with breakthrough pain during the night, or goes to the school office with pain in his jaw recently," his father said.

"He's on chemotherapy once a week, he's on biological injections that we give him every four days.

 read more

living well with arthritis tdving well with arthritis
Free Information Booklets Buy Raffle Tickets