I’m Mon, I’m 21 and currently in my final year of my degree at the University of Exeter. I also have juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) rheumatoid factor positive, which I’ve had since the age of 3. Here I want to raise awareness of the everyday life with JIA, the difficulties and challenges, through sharing my experiences. Because it’s not just an “an old person’s disease”. So many young people have arthritis and are asked “isn’t that what old people get”?

First things first, what is JIA? Arthritis Research explains it as this: “No one as of yet knows what causes JIA, that’s what ‘idiopathic’ means. What doctors do know is that JIA is an autoimmune disease. Your immune system is your body’s way of defending itself against injury, illness or bacteria. Your body can defend itself by causing inflammation or swelling. But when you have JIA, your body creates inflammation in a joint or joints when it doesn’t need to. This inflammation then causes stiffness and pain.” Yep, so my body definitely isn’t winning any prizes on the natural selection front.

There are many different types of arthritis, mine is rheumatoid factor positive and if I’m totally honest I’m not totally sure what that means… What I do know is this, I have 26 joints which are affected by my arthritis. Here’s a brief summary:

– Swelling, deformity and restrictions in most of my knuckles and both wrists

– Swelling in both ankles and knees

– Swelling in both shoulders and restriction and potential shoulder joint replacement

– Previous swelling in my neck and jaw

– Restriction in my left elbow

– Restricted tendon in my left middle finger

But looking at me, you wouldn’t know I have arthritis, unless I told you that I had a chronic condition and you knew what to look for. And that’s what people struggle with- I think. Because seeing is believing, right? So most people can’t begin to imagine how it impacts me daily or how it can affect you on some days and not on others.

Arthritis is an invisible illness which I hope this blog will help shine a light on. I’m hoping that sharing my 18 years of living with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis, Rheumatoid Factor Positive, is a useful and an entertaining read for you all 💪🏻