These rare, inherited disorders cause overly flexible joints and loose, fragile skin.
Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) is a collection of genetic disorders that affect connective tissue. People who have EDS have problems with their collagen, a protein that adds strength and elasticity to connective tissue. This faulty collagen affects many body parts, including skin, muscles, ligaments and joints.
The different disorders that make up the Ehlers-Danlos syndrome are associated with a few genetic mutations.
Because EDS is a collection of disorders, symptoms can vary by the specific type. However, extreme joint flexibility, excessively stretchy skin and easy bruising are among the more common symptoms shared among the disorders. Because of skin symptoms, wound healing is a problem for people with EDS.
The specific EDS type most associated with arthritis is hypermobility type (hEDS). This type is known for frequent joint dislocation, degenerative joint disease and chronic pain.
The diagnosis of one of the Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is based on the findings of a medical history and physical exam. The doctor will test skin stretchiness and joint flexibility. Imaging tests can look for other signs and complications of EDS. A doctor can confirm the diagnosis of EDS through genetic tests performed on a blood sample.
There is no cure for EDS. The main goal of treatment is to prevent injury and complications.
People with hEDS may include the following in their treatment plan:
• Physical therapy.
• Exercises to strengthen muscles to support unstable joints.
• Assistive devices like braces, wheelchairs or scooters.
• Over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers for joint or muscle pain.
• In rare cases, surgery to repair joints damaged by repeated dislocations.
Following the doctor's prescribed treatment plan is key to health and longevity. It is also important to practice good self-care to protect the skin, joints, gastrointestinal system and mind. Avoid contact sports, heavy lifting, injuries and falls; cleanse the skin with mild soaps and use sunscreen when going outdoors; practice meditation or other stress-relieving exercises like yoga (with modifications) or tai chi.
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