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More South Australian children diagnosed with arthritis

25 March 2015    


Arthritis SA to fund state’s first Paediatric Rheumatology Nurse

Arthritis SA will fund the state’s first dedicated Paediatric Rheumatology Nurse at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital to cope with a significant rise in the number of South Australian children diagnosed with the debilitating condition.

Research released at the organisation’s Parliamentary Breakfast today shows arthritis is now the most prevalent of chronic conditions to affect South Australians, with one in four adults and more than 600 children suffering from the inflammatory disease – a number that is rising.

Despite the increasing figures, paediatric rheumatology is hugely under-resourced, with only one specialist in South Australia and significant wait times for patients seeking formal diagnosis and treatment.

Arthritis SA CEO Julie Black said additional paediatric rheumatology resources in South Australia were essential to ensuring better support and management of the increasingly diagnosed condition.

“For many South Australians it comes as a huge shock to hear that their child is suffering from arthritis – something that’s too often associated with old-age and can’t be cured – but to then find out it could be many months until they can seek specialist support, it’s just unimaginable ,” Ms Black said.

“For children, the impact of late diagnosis is significant, with a greater chance of complications including deformities, developmental delays and increased pain and suffering linked to increased treatment wait times.

“We are extremely concerned that without further resources dedicated to its management, the intensity of the condition will be heightened.

“These concerns are also reflected in national research, which shows the treatment shortfall exists across the country and therefore fails to meet international medical best practice standards.”

For 10-year-old Lucy, prompt and effective treatment following her arthritis diagnosis made all the difference when it comes to quality of life.

“We’d noticed Lucy wasn’t very physical – her hands and legs were fatigued and there was some swelling in her joints – but when she was formally diagnosed in April last year, it came as a real shock,” Lucy’s mother Melanie Byham said.

“Once we did seek treatment though, the difference was miraculous – the girl who once didn’t want to do anything now runs, skips and swims with confidence.

“She may have regular appointments with rheumatologists, ophthalmologists, physiotherapists and podiatrists but we have her arthritis under control and she’s a happy and functional 10-year-old!”

Ms Black said the growing number of childhood diagnoses was part of a much bigger issue for South Australia – which already has the highest percentage of arthritis sufferers in Australia.

“More than 270,000 South Australians suffer from arthritis, representing a major cause of pain and disability and draining the health and welfare system of more than $200 million annually just in joint replacements,” she said.

“We just need to look at the age of our population, combined with the increasing number of childhood diagnoses, to see that arthritis is not just something that will go away – it’s something we need to proactively manage.”

More than 80 people attended the Arthritis SA Parliamentary Breakfast, including more than 15 elected members.

About Arthritis SA

Arthritis SA is advocating for greater research and support to improve the lives of the many South Australians suffering daily as a result of the chronic symptoms of the condition.

A not for profit organisation, Arthritis SA promotes awareness of the challenges facing people with arthritis across the community, and to leaders in business, industry and government.

Arthritis SA also funds research into potential causes and possible cures as well as better ways to live with arthritis.

For more information, visit www.arthritissa.org.au

MEDIA CONTACT: SAMANTHA FIRTH 0408 715 585