I have just returned from the EULAR Congress in Madrid, where I spent an exhausting few days learning, sharing and working with a wide range of people from around the world.
EULAR is the European League Against Rheumatism, although participants travelled from every part of the globe to attend this annual meeting. This year happened to be the joint Congress with PReS (the Paediatric Rheumatology European Association), something that happens every four years. Before I went, I knew it would be big, but had no idea exactly what to expect. There were 14,000 delegates, from clinicians, other health professionals (including physiotherapists, podiatrists and pharmacists), charities, parents, patients, patient organisations and corporate reps.
There were thousands of attendees, there were dozens of talks, presentations, seminars and poster tours happening at the same time so everyone was split up. The disadvantage is that there were several things at the same time that were of interest, but most of the materials will be available to delegates online later on. The program runs from early morning through to late evening, too, so no time to see the sites of Madrid.
So, what were the highlights? Well, here’s just a few:
- Discussions about the epidemiology of rheumatic diseases, showing changes and differences over time and between countries.
- Presentations on the variable evidence on the use of medicinal cannabis to treat chronic pain and associated health problems - the short answer is speak to your doctor before starting using it (and go for clinical-grade compositions that have a known and fixed amount of active ingredients in).
- Really interesting evidence on the impact of environmental factors in the development of autoimmune disorders, including evidence that the impact of smoking on your DNA can last 30 or more years after you stop smoking, and changes to the DNA are passed down to your children and grandchildren (possibly further and for longer, but there isn’t data going back that far yet).
- Discussions about the challenges young people face when they transition from paediatric (children’s) services to adult services, including a brilliant presentation by Sophie of RAiISE.
- The chance to meet up with the wonderful people who form ENCA (the European Network for Childhood Arthritis). These are parents of children with autoimmune and autoinflammatory disorders like JIA, who run parent support organisations in their home countries. They have done a huge amount already, and we have great plans together for the future.
A few of our colleagues from ENCA.
And, of course, a presentation by JAR project about the age of onset of JIA in children. This was based on the survey we carried out last year, but was a new finding - that girls with oligo or poly JIA develop the condition earlier than boys. This may help with future diagnosis and with helping to understand how the condition first forms and develops. The published abstract can be found here: https://ard.bmj.com/content/78/Suppl_2/2184.2
We also used the opportunity to ‘soft launch’ our new campaign - ThinkJIA. Much more on that, soon, as we finalise the separate website and prioritise the need for early referrals to paediatric rheumatologists to help with early diagnosis.
Thank you to EULAR for supporting my attendance with a bursary.