Do you have stretchy skin with an increased range of joint movement? Do you often damage your skin which doesn’t heal well? If yes, you may be suffering from a condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). It is a group of inherited connective tissue disorders that affect the skin, joints, and blood vessels. We spoke to Dr Amarnath Reddy B, Consultant In Pain Management, Yashoda Hospitals, Hyderabad, who explained EDS, its symptoms, causes, and management measures.
What is EDS?
“The Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) are a group of 13 hereditary connective tissue disorders that affect connective tissue. EDS manifests clinically with hypermobility of joints, skin hyperextensibility, atrophic scarring, and fragility of blood vessels”, said Dr Reddy.
He added, “Each type of EDS has its own set of features with distinct diagnostic criteria. In 2017, 13 subtypes of EDS were classified. Hypermobile EDS (hEDS) is the most common type of EDS by far accounting for about 90% of EDS cases and affects 1 in 5,000 people.”
Symptoms Of EDS
Depending on where EDS affects your connective tissue, you might experience symptoms in your skin, joints, muscles or blood vessels. Dr Reddy listed some of the symptoms as follows:
- Hypermobile joints: Joints easily move beyond the normal range of motion
- Poor wound: Healing, stretchy skin, and bruising
- Delicate skin prone to tearing or bruising, particularly on the forehead and shin.
- Severe skin scarring and the presence of several lumps on the body
- Chronic pain muscle and joint pains
- Constant stiffness and spasms
- Low blood pressure, dizziness and sudden increase in heart rate after standing up
- Migraines and headaches
- Abdominal pains including nausea, heartburn, abdominal cramps alternating diarrhoea and constipation
- Fatigue, anxiety, and poor sleep
Diagnosis Of EDS
The diagnosis of EDS involves a thorough examination of medical history and clinical observation. “Since many individuals with this syndrome lack an identified genetic mutation, healthcare providers typically rely on symptoms and medical history for diagnosis”, added Dr Reddy. This includes:
- Evaluating joint mobility
- Investigating for unusual scarring
- Testing the skin’s texture and elasticity
Causes Of EDS
Dr Reddy informed, “Various types of EDS are linked to diverse genetic causes, with some being inherited and transmitted from parent to child. There are twelve types of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome with identified genetic causes, and certain types are linked to various genes. The genetic cause(s) of hEDS have not been identified.”
How To Manage EDS
While there is no cure for EDS, treatment can assist in symptom management and the prevention of additional complications. To treat specific symptoms, it also needs the attention of several practitioners.
Dr Reddy listed management measures for EDS as follows:
- Engage in daily exercise, aiming for up to 30 minutes of low-impact physical activity 3-5 days per week
- Avoid contact sports, particularly if there is known joint instability
- Consider activities like Pilates, swimming/water aerobics, and recumbent biking
- Participate in physiotherapy, focusing on exercises that strengthen muscles and stabilise joints as a primary treatment for EDS
- Use braces for additional joint support when needed
- Over-the-counter pain medications as tolerated. Also, avoid daily use of NSAIDS
- In certain cases of EDS, opioids have shown effectiveness in alleviating both acute and chronic pain
Managing Blood Pressure
Blood vessels are more fragile in some types of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, so keeping your blood pressure low may help reduce stress on them.
Surgery might be advised to address joints that have suffered recurrent dislocations or to repair areas of rupture in blood vessels and organs.[Disclaimer: This article contains information provided by a registered healthcare professional and is for informational purposes only. Hence, we advise you to not substitute this information with medical treatment and consult your expert if you notice any symptoms or complications.]