One in fifty children with Down syndrome have juvenile arthritis, more than twice what was previously estimated, according to a ground-breaking new study carried out by Irish researchers into the disease.
The four-year project – undertaken at UCD School of Medicine in partnership with clinicians in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin is supported by Arthritis Ireland, Down Syndrome Ireland and the National Children’s Research Centre – found that children with Down syndrome are 18-21 times more likely to suffer from the debilitating disease than children without Down syndrome.
The first of its kind worldwide, the study is now being expanded to define what might be driving the disease.
“If we understand why the disease is more prevalent in children with Down syndrome and what is causing it, then we can begin to look at better treatment options and ultimately a cure for the disease,” said clinical research fellow Dr Charlene Foley.
This research has also helped raise awareness about the condition so that children with Down’s Arthritis (DA) are diagnosed and treated in a more timely manner, leading to better clinical outcomes and quality of life for children with Down syndrome.
The research is being undertaken by UCD Newman Fellow Dr Charlene Foley, along with her mentors Dr Orla Killeen, Consultant Paediatric Rheumatologist in OLCHC; Professor Gerry Wilson, Arthritis Ireland Chair of Rheumatology, UCD; and Professor Ursula Fearon, Arthritis Ireland Chair of Molecular Rheumatology, Trinity College Dublin.
The latest research comes on the back of news earlier this year which showed almost half of people affected by the skin disease, psoriasis, have never heard of the painful condition psoriatic arthritis, despite the fact that many of them will go on to develop it.
Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition, which appears as pink or red raised patches on the skin, known as plaques. These can be painful and itchy. An estimated 73,000 people in Ireland are affected and the condition can have a major impact on both physical and mental health.
According to research up to 30% of people with psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis, which can cause pain, swelling and damage to the joints. However, 46% of people with the skin condition have never even heard of this form of arthritis.
Furthermore, 87% of people with psoriasis have never received any information about psoriatic arthritis and just 14% feel they are well informed and know a lot about it.
“The symptoms of psoriatic arthritis are quite different to those of psoriasis in that it’s a disease of joints rather than a disease of the skin. Those affected will experience swelling, pain and stiffness in the joints and will have difficulty moving their joints, particularly the hands, knees or feet.
“Early diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis is important. If we intervene and treat early, we may be able to put the disease into remission and prevent permanent damage to the joints,” explains Professor David Kane, a Consultant Rheumatologist at Tallaght Hospital and the Beacon Hospital.
While the symptoms of this form of arthritis can vary from person to person, they can include:-Thickening and discolouration of the nails-Stiff, painful and swollen joints. This type of arthritis often effects the toes, ankles, knees and lower back-Fingers and toe can swell up like sausages-Pain and swelling at the back of the heel.
According to Consultant Dermatologist at Tallaght Hospital, Dr Anne-Marie Tobin, it is important to emphasise that not everyone with psoriasis will develop arthritis. However, she said she advises all of her patients with psoriasis to pay close attention and talk to their doctor if they notice any symptoms of arthritis, such as pain or swelling in the joints.
National Arthritis Week takes place October 9th-16th, 2017