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‘Juvenile idiopathic arthritis deserves more attention’

More attention should be paid to juvenile idiopathic arthritis. An early diagnosis and robust treatment can prevent irreversible damage. This is what paediatric rheumatologist Rebecca ten Cate said in her inaugural lecture on Friday 22 November 2019.

Rebecca ten Cate is going to focus solely on her duties as Professor of Paediatrics, paediatric rheumatology in particular. She recently bade her patients farewell, when she hung up her doctor’s coat after almost 40 years. She has mixed feelings because she will miss her patients.


Ten Cate sees creating more awareness of juvenile idiopathic arthritis as one of her key tasks. ‘If you ask me, everyone should know that children also suffer from arthritis. There are still too many doctors who see a child with painful joints and think it’s from a bump or a fall.’ There is a lack of awareness in the general public. ‘Parents of children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis say that acquaintances ask if they really are sure. They think that children don’t suffer from arthritis,’ she explains.

This is bad because early detection is crucial, says Ten Cate. By providing early and robust treatment, much misery can be avoided. ‘Juvenile idiopathic arthritis can lead to irreversible joint damage and blindness even. Fortunately, we are getting better at calming arthritis with medicine, but the sooner we begin treatment, the better.’

Research into the musculoskeletal system

Ten Cate is not one for empty words: she is already discussing how more attention can be paid to physical examinations of the musculoskeletal system during medical training. ‘Many young doctors have no idea how to examine joints, tendons and bones properly. That is an important skill, not just for rheumatology.’ She also calls for continuing education on juvenile idiopathic arthritis and the warning signs. ‘We must continue to inform students, young doctors, specialists, physiotherapists, doctors of rehabilitation medicine, ophthalmologists, orthopaedic doctors and any other professionals that a child with juvenile idiopathic arthritis may come into contact with.’

For more information, see the full text of the inaugural lecture [in Dutch]: ‘Er was eens … een kind met reuma’

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