Child with Down Syndrome suffers from the pain of arthritis
The mother of an 11-year-old boy who has Down Syndrome, arthritis and is non-verbal has told how he was "in pain for years and we did not know".
Patrick Kehoe, who has been waiting two years for an appointment with an ophthalmologist (eye specialist), has a type of arthritis associated with uveitis, or eye inflammation, that can cause vision problems if untreated.
His mother, Elaine, wants to raise awareness about the condition because "research is now showing that children with Down Syndrome are prone to arthritis".
She thinks that the reason he chewed at his fingers from a very young age is because they were painful.
"We were told that he has arthritis in at least 15 joints from his head to his feet, including his legs and ankles."
The family, from Dundalk, Co Louth, only learned that he had arthritis two years ago when he broke his leg while playing table tennis. They had no idea that children with Down Syndrome were at risk of the condition.
"He is on a new high-tech medication but still complains about being sore. Sometimes he sobs in bed in the evenings or he will take his socks off and wrap them around his ankles," Elaine said.
"There needs to be additional awareness about this because when Patrick gets sore, he cries and because he cannot communicate other people may think it is a tantrum. It is an invisible disease."
She said Patrick was still waiting to see an ophthalmologist, adding: "Juvenile polyarticular arthritis can affect your eyes, resulting in uveitis.
"We were told that it is very important for children with arthritis to see an ophthalmologist to check for uveitis, but two years on we're still waiting for an appointment."
Patrick has also been waiting 18 months for an MRI of his wrist.
Arthritis Ireland's Stephanie Casey said 478 children were "waiting in pain" to be seen for the first time by consultants.
She added: "Arthritis is so much more than joint pain. Children are also living with constant fatigue and muscle wastage."