A mother reveals her six-year-old daughter’s tell-tale signs of arthritis she couldn’t detect.
Leanne Taggart, of Glasgow, had never heard of a child with arthritis until her daughter Kevagher was diagnosed.
Kevagh, who loved to dance, swim and take part in gymnastics, apparently fell after a minor stumble with pain and a swollen joint, which the 43-year-old believes are the first signs of the condition.
As her condition worsened, Kevagh also gave up food and lost weight — another symptom of juvenile idiopathic arthritis, the mother of two said.
The six-year-old was finally diagnosed in October 2022.
Kevagh, 6, pictured, was diagnosed with the rare condition Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis in October 2022 after falling at a friend’s birthday party.
Mrs Taggart: ‘It was a lonely place because I’d never heard of a child getting arthritis before.
‘It’s something you automatically associate with older people, not children.’
The condition – which affects one in 1,000 children in the UK – can cause pain, stiff, tender or warm joints, fatigue, blurred vision, loss of appetite, rash and fever.
Kevagh didn’t show any obvious signs of the crippling condition until he fell at a friend’s birthday party in August 2022.
A six-year-old boy tripped on the floor while dancing with his friends.
But she came straight back and danced with her friends, so Mrs Taggart said she ‘didn’t think too much of it’.
What is juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) and what are its symptoms?
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is the most common type of arthritis in children and adolescents.
It’s an autoimmune disease that means the immune system, which is supposed to fight invaders like germs and viruses, gets confused and attacks the body’s cells and tissues.
This causes the body to release inflammatory chemicals that attack the tissue lining around the joint (synovium).
It produces a fluid that cushions the joints, but it can cause pain and make the joint tender, red, swollen, or difficult to move.
joint pain or stiffness; May be worse after waking up or staying in one position for too long. Red, swollen, tender or warm joints. Feeling very tired or tired (fatigue). Blurred vision or dry, itchy eyes. the rash Loss of appetite. high fever
Source: Arthritis Foundation
But the next day she was still in pain and her knee was swollen – a telltale sign of autoimmune disease.
Assuming Kevagh’s knee was sprained or twisted, Mrs Taggart took him to A&E where he was x-rayed.
Doctors found fluid around her knee, gave her painkillers and told Ms Taggart a physio would be contacted.
But within two weeks Kevagh took a turn for the worse.
He couldn’t walk and wasn’t eating, so he started losing weight — another symptom of the condition.
After many visits to the hospital, Kevagh finally had an MRI scan and a face-to-face appointment with a physiotherapist who mentioned her rheumatology.
The next day Kevagh was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis.
There is no suggestion that the bump triggered Kevagh’s arthritis.
Scientists are still clueless as to what causes this condition.
But falls can trigger other types of arthritis, which are usually temporary.
Mrs Taggart said: ‘We couldn’t get our heads around it – it was absolutely devastating… It’s more common than you think.
‘All I could think was, how could my six-year-old have arthritis? I made the mistake of googling it and found a lot of horror stories. It was horrible.
‘But, initially, Kevagh was dismissive of how bad it could get.
‘He was given crutches and had to stay away from school because he couldn’t walk.’
Ms Taggart said Kevagh left hospital ‘practically shunned’ after starting her treatment, which included cortisone injections in her knee and ankle.
However, her treatment later changed to a weekly injection in the top of her thigh which she found ‘traumatic’.
‘She would cry and scream and hide because she hated it so much.
‘It was horrible to see,’ said Mrs Taggart.
Kevagh, (pictured left) who loved to dance, swim and take part in gymnastics, was unable to walk without crutches and in pain. The six-year-old had pain, swollen knees (pictured right) and weight loss, all signs of juvenile idiopathic arthritis.
Kevagh struggles with various treatments and medications that make him anxious and sick
The Taggart family struggled with Kevagh’s diagnosis, but Kevagh is now back in school enjoying dance and gymnastics. Left to right Jayden 13, Andrew Taggart, 45, Kevagh, 6 and Leanne Taggart, 43
His treatment was changed a third time after another medication made him anxious and sick.
Mrs Taggart said: ‘Fortunately, he is now on a liquid form of medication which he takes himself every day and is fine at the moment.
‘As a result of his arthritis, Kevagh also suffers from uveitis which can cause eye pain, changes in your vision and in some cases glaucoma or even blindness.
‘So he has to go to the hospital every six weeks for transfusions to try and save him from these problems.’
Mrs Taggart also has a 13-year-old son Jayden, who hates to see his little sister in pain.
He said: ‘It has been difficult for the family. It’s horrible for us to see Kevagh like this and for him to go through this.
‘I had to take some time off work last month because it was too much to handle.
‘We are taking each day as it comes.’
Now back at Kevagh School Mrs Taggart is relieved and admits she ‘didn’t realize how bad it was at the time’.
He said: ‘It’s like night and day compared to how he is now.
‘I think Kevagh is lucky that he fell when he did because now he has a diagnosis. It could have gone on for much longer and her symptoms could have worsened.’
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