When children live with arthritis it’s called childhood arthritis or juvenile arthritis. Doctors don’t know exactly what causes kids to develop arthritis, but it impacts approximately 220,000 people younger than 18 in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, a time to educate people about this autoimmune condition, which can take a toll on kids’ physical health as well as their mental health. To help people better understand juvenile arthritis, we’ve dispelled some common myths below.

Myth: Only adults get arthritis.
Fact: Arthritis is, indeed, more common with age. But different types of arthritis can affect anyone, at any stage of life. That includes children and teenagers.  

Myth: Juvenile arthritis is a specific condition.
Fact: Just as the umbrella term “arthritis” applies to nearly 100 different conditions, juvenile arthritis is also a category of its own, with many types of arthritis within. For example, juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is the most common category of arthritis that kids get, and it include six different types of arthritis (those include oligoarthritis, polyarthritis, systemic, enthesitis-related, juvenile psoriatic arthritis and undifferentiated) according to the Arthritis Foundation. Juvenile myositis, juvenile lupus and juvenile scleroderma are some other examples.  

Myth: Kids will outgrow juvenile arthritis.
Fact: While different types of juvenile arthritis can be treated, there is no cure. Some kids may have their arthritis go into remission, but others may have to contend with it throughout their life. As they get older, it’s no longer referred to as juvenile arthritis.  

Myth: If a child’s joints are swollen and painful they must have juvenile arthritis.
Fact: The symptoms of juvenile arthritis can vary depending on the child and the type of arthritis. In addition to affecting the joints, it can also cause problems with the skin, eyes, liver, heart and lungs. Some kids may even experience different symptoms that seem to change by the day when their arthritis is flaring up. Juvenile arthritis symptoms can also overlap with a number of other health conditions, which is why it can be challenging to diagnose arthritis in kids. The CDC lists the following signs and symptoms:

  • Joint pain

  • Swelling

  • Fever

  • Stiffness

  • Rash

  • Feeling tired

Myth: Juvenile arthritis isn’t serious.
Fact: If a child is living with pain or discomfort, it’s a big deal. It could limit them from participating in certain activities with their friends. It may mean they have to take medication. And it could impact the way they look or act. That can cause stress and can also take a toll on a child’s mental health. According to the Arthritis Foundation, 15 percent of kids with JIA have been diagnosed with depression, and even more than that (around 20 percent) may experience mood problems.

Myth: There’s little you can do to manage juvenile arthritis.
Fact: Just as adults with arthritis can take actions that may help them feel better, so can kids. According to the Arthritis Foundation, some of those actions include participating in low-impact exercises (like swimming and walking); seeking out physical and occupational therapy; applying a mix of heat and cold to tender joints to reduce swelling and ease stiffness; and eating a diet filled with anti-inflammatory foods, including fish, lean proteins and vegetables.

If you think your child, or someone you know might have juvenile arthritis, talk to your doctor. To learn more, visit the Arthritis Foundation.