Musculoskeletal disorders, connective tissue disorders, and chronic degenerative diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and fibromyalgia affect the joints and surrounding muscle tissue. Disease activity often results in pain, swelling, severe fatigue, and limited mobility. Flares (sudden exacerbation of disease activity) result in debilitating swelling and pain, occurring often and without warning. Treatment for musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders usually involve aggressive drug therapy (sometimes requiring hospitalization) which may result in side effects, making the student ill. Orthopedic interventions involving hospitalization and surgery may also be necessary.
Regular class attendance may be impossible for the student with musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders due to flares and medication side effects. It may be necessary for students to complete assignments during a time of day when their disease is less active. Because of random flares, exams may be missed or need to be rescheduled. Often there is also a lowered immunity which may result in frequent illnesses. Due to limited mobility, pain, and fatigue, extra time on exams and notetakers are commonly used accommodations.
Muscular dystrophy refers to a group of hereditary, progressive disorders that most often occur with young people, producing degeneration of voluntary muscles of the trunk and lower extremities. The atrophy of the muscles results in chronic weakness and fatigue and may cause respiratory or cardiac problems. Walking, if possible, is slow and appears uncoordinated. Manipulation of materials in class may be difficult.