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WALES: I can help stop kids suffering the pain I do; BRAVE 10-YEAR-OLD ARTHRITIS GIRL'S HELPING HAND.

Byline: By HEIDI SCAMMELL

A SCHOOLGIRL with a painful form of arthritis is helping doctors find out how to stop thousands like her developing an even more debilitating condition - brittle bones.

Ten-year-old Zoe McCabe from Deganwy has had Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) since she was seven.

The condition mildly effects her joints but it is her skin which suffers most.

She regularly gets rashes on her face, knees, elbows and fingers.

She also gets tired much more quickly than other children her age, and has taken up netball in a bid to increase her stamina.

Zoe has to have a weekly injection of steroids.

But one of the side effects is that it is likely to lead to a thinning of her bones, which could leave her struggling to live a normal life as an adult.

Now she has been chosen as one of thirty children to take part in a trial that aims to reduce osteopenia (brittle bones).

More than 50% of children who take steroids to combat rheumatic diseases develop brittle bones within a year of starting the treatment.

"It was not originally clear what she was suffering from, her first symptoms were calcium deposits on her elbows and knees which was thought to be eczema," said Zoe's mother, Sheena McCabe.

"It was completely new to me and I had never heard of arthritis in children before.

"I do try and encourage her to exercise and she is enjoying playing netball at school at the moment."

Steroids and a weekly injection of methotrexate are Zoe's current medication but her mother is hopeful the trial will help find a new way of treating her daughter without the side effects She said: "I am hoping that her arthritis will not continue for the rest of her life and although she copes very well with her condition she does get more tired than the average ten year old."

Zoe is now waiting on results of a body scan last week, to see how much inflammation she has, and to check her current bone density.

The pounds 500,000 clinical trial is being held at Alder Hey (the Royal Liverpool Children's Hospital).

It will be run by paediatric rheumatologist Dr Michael Beresford who first diagnosed Zoe's case, and his colleagues.

More than ten thousand children around the world suffer with rheumatic diseases and Dr Beresford, also a senior lecturer at the University of Liverpool, is keen to see children receive simple guidelines on how to treat their disease.

He said: "There are many studies in the treatment of osteoporosis in adults and how it should be diagnosed and treated.

However, no such information is available in children."

"Children with rheumatic diseases often get thinning of their bones.

"This is due to factors including the underlying inflammatory process itself, nutrition, and reduced physical activity, but steroids play a significant role.

"Although there are tens of thousands of children worldwide currently receiving steroids for chronic rheumatic diseases, there are no guidelines on how it should be treated."

Arthritis affects one in every thousand children in the UK and there is no known cause for the disease. It is a different disease to arthritis which affects and adults but does not usually prevent children from leading a normal life.

Families like Zoe McCabe's often don't know whether their arthritis will disappear when they reach their teenage years or if it will continue into adulthood.

CAPTION(S):

Brave Zoe McCabe, 10, pictured with mum Sheena, has arthritis but hopes to help other children who suffer with brittle bones after being chosen to take part in a new trial
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 5, 2008
Words:602
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