Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Taking Steps against Arthritis

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Taking Steps against Arthritis

Article excerpt

Alyssa Whiteman recalls a planned college train trip to Washington that almost got derailed by a painful flare-up of the arthritis - yes, arthritis - that she's been living with ever since she was a toddler.

"I woke up, and I felt a little weird. I noticed my cheeks were wet. All of a sudden, my neck was killing me. I realized my face was wet because I was crying in my sleep," says the 23-year-old Northvale resident.

"Thank God my roommate was there. She had been such a help, all through college. She went into the closet, got my heating pad and got me to take my pain relievers," says Whiteman, a physics major now starting her first job out in the real world as a process engineer. "I've learned to live with it," she says of her type of arthritis - spondyloarthropathy. "To be honest, I have been feeling it for so long, I just kind of take it in stride."

Whiteman is this year's adult honoree in the Bergen County Arthritis Walk to benefit the Arthritis Foundation's New Jersey chapter. She is a living reminder that arthritis is not just an old person's disease. The walk, to be held Sunday at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, already has 1,000 participants enrolled and is expected to generate more than $100,000 in donations. People can register online, or just show up that day to walk. There is no minimum donation required.

"I think that people are often surprised when they hear about a child who has an arthritis diagnosis. That's part of what we're working on, is to spread the understanding that arthritis strikes people of all ages," says Amy Boright Siperstein, regional director of the New Jersey chapter of the Arthritis Foundation. The walks, done across the country, are a major source of funding to the Arthritis Foundation nationally. "The funds we raise go to furthering our mission of research, education, advocacy and support for those with an arthritis diagnosis," Siperstein says.

One in five people nationwide have some form of arthritis, according to the foundation. While 52 million adults have the disease, 300,000 suffer from juvenile arthritis, foundation officials say. In New Jersey there are 1.5 million arthritis cases, with 9,000 of them being juvenile arthritis, according to the foundation.

"Arthritis" is an umbrella term that encompasses some 100 different diseases or conditions, according to Siperstein. With arthritis, in its most general sense, an area in or around a joint becomes inflamed, causing pain, stiffness and, sometimes, difficulty moving. Some types of arthritis also affect other parts of the body, such as the skin and internal organs. Types of arthritis range from Lupus to rheumatoid arthritis to osteoarthritis and gout. It can manifest in ways big and small. With proper medication and/or physical therapy, the sometimes-crippling pain can be alleviated and managed. …

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