WHEN Gabrielle Archer discovered her little girl had arthritis, she thought it was a condition that only affected the elderly.

Now she is keen to raise awareness of Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis which causes joints to become inflamed, swollen or stiff, and affects one in every 1,000 children.

Gabrielle who lives with her three-year-old daughter Isabella in Bournemouth, said: “About 18 months ago, she started limping.

“At first I thought there was a problem with her shoes so I bought her a new pair.

“But gradually over the next few weeks she stopped walking altogether and just started shuffling around on her bottom.”

Over the next few months, Gabrielle took her daughter to see a number of different doctors and consultants.

“Like many people I thought arthritis was a condition that just affects the elderly. But after we started looking into it we realised that her symptoms were the same. Eventually we refused to leave hospital until someone did some tests and she was finally referred to a specialist at Southampton hospital.”

Gabrielle added: “I’m really keen to raise awareness because I feel she would have made better progress if she had been diagnosed earlier.”

Paediatric rheumatology specialist nurse Sarah Hartfree, based at Southampton hospital, agrees there needs to be more awareness amongst GPs.

“We would encourage GPs to contact the experts if they are in any doubt, because the quicker we can get a diagnosis, the quicker we can make a big improvement for that child.”

For more information, contact the paediatric rheumatology patient line 07760 158924 n Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis is almost as common in children as diabetes.

It is a condition where joints become inflamed, swollen, painful or stiff, and can stunt growth.

The cause of the disease is still unknown.