Science & Technology in Action

9th Edition

Treating Arthritis


Some 100,000 people in Ireland are known to be suffering with arthritis and many more are claimed to be undiagnosed. This lesson looks at the impact of arthritis on skeletal joints. The various types of the disease are described — osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, gout, lupus and ankylosing spondylitis.
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Contains the full lesson along with a supporting toolkit, including teachers’ notes.

Lesson excerpt

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints causing pain and immobility. Fatigue is also a common symptom. It is estimated to cost the Irish economy €1.6 billion per year in terms of lost working hours. The three commonest types in Ireland are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia.

What is the difference between arthritis and rheumatism? 
There is little difference: rheumatism is an old fashioned non-specific term for conditions that affect joints and connective tissue, while arthritis is more specific and is classified into over a hundred different types.

Joints allow movement of bones, and since arthritis damages joints, in many different ways, people suffering arthritis experience pain when they move. In joints the bones are held together by ligaments of various types. Capsular ligaments surround the joints and are lined by a layer of special cells called the synovial membrane which produces a lubricating fluid called synovial fluid. The bones are connected by tendons to muscles that contract to cause movement. These muscles work in pairs called antagonistic pairs that work against each other. The biceps muscle bends the arm at the elbow while the triceps muscle straightens the arm. The ends of the bones are covered by a layer of cartilage that acts as a shock absorber and reduces friction. Cartilage is smooth, tough and slightly elastic.

To read the full lesson, download the pdf above.

True or False?

  1. Clicking joints causes arthritis. false
  2. Anti-inflammatory drugs help those with arthritis. true
  3. The ancient Greeks used bee stings to treat arthritis. true
  4. Alternative therapies are better than prescribed medication. false
  5. Only old people get arthritis. false
  6. Ligaments join bone to muscle. false
  7. Arthritis is often an autoimmune disease. true
  8. Lupus is a form of arthritis caused by a bite from a wolf. false
  9. There is no cure for arthritis. true
  10. Arthritis costs the Irish economy more than a billion euros each year. true