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Kate's story – juvenile idiopathic arthritis

Kate WellsKate had just started secondary school when she noticed some swelling in her calves and joints. Soon most of her joints were stiff, inflamed and painful.

Kate visited her GP and was referred to hospital. After several months, the pain was so bad that she was forced to use a wheelchair and struggled to move around on her own.

Almost a year after she experienced her first symptoms, Kate was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). She was prescribed weekly steroid injections and was referred to Great Ormond Street Hospital, where she was treated for four years before being transferred to University College of London Hospital as an adult.

At the age of 15, Kate began taking a drug called methotrexate, which proved very beneficial. The medication significantly eased her joint pain and gave her the freedom to enjoy her teenage years.

Growing up with arthritis

However, as she grew older, Kate began to realise the challenges of being a young adult on medication. She found it frustrating that she couldn’t do everything that her friends were doing and faced some difficult times at university, including alcohol poisoning after drinking alcohol while taking her medication.

In her second year at university, Kate felt so frustrated at the limitations imposed by the medication that she stopped taking it; six months later she had septic arthritis and was forced to reassess her lifestyle. After seeking medical help, Kate began her third year at university and decided to join the gym.

Exercise has since played a major role in helping her to manage her condition effectively: she graduated from university and now works full time.'I’m now looking to the future, whatever it brings for me and my arthritis.

‘Being diagnosed with arthritis at any age is distressing, but as a young girl I found it really difficult to come to terms with,’ says Kate. ‘Aside from constant pain and fatigue, I was also incredibly self-conscious and embarrassed about how my joints looked. I was reluctant to wear skirts and I couldn't wear high heels like my friends, plus the steroid injections caused me to gain quite a lot of weight.

‘As I’ve got older, I’ve learned to accept arthritis as just another part of me, but it’s only with time that I’ve gained this perspective. Through exercise and medication, I’ve managed to find the right treatment for the time being and I’m now looking to the future, whatever it brings for me and my arthritis.’

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