What Is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?

Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) is a group of connective tissue disorders that impact the joints, skin, and blood vessels. In people suffering from EDS, the collagen that makes up the connective tissue is fragile and stretchy. Because collagen is found throughout the body, symptoms of EDS can vary depending on where the collagen is weakened the most.

There’s no known cause for EDS, but genetics do play a role, and scientists have already pinpointed some genes present in certain subtypes of EDS.

Do you or a loved one live with EDS? Below, our specialists at Momentum Physical Therapy, go in-depth about the different subtypes of EDS. Read on to learn more about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options of EDS. 

The 13 Ehlers-Danlos subtypes 

Up until 2017, EDS was grouped into six subtypes. Now, specialists have identified 13 subtypes of EDS, each with some unique characteristics and some overlapping symptoms. These include the following:

  1. Hypermobile EDS (hypermobile joints, velvety skin, bruising, and chronic pain)
  2. Classic EDS (sensitive, smooth, and elastic skin; bruising; joint hypermobility; scars; and cysts made out of fat found on the skin)
  3. Dermatosparaxis EDS (sensitive skin, bruising, and hernias)
  4. Arthrochalasia EDS (elastic skin that stretches easily and severe joint hypermobility that can lead to dislocations)
  5. Kyphoscoliosis EDS (spine issues, low bone density, small corneas, easy bruising, and arteries that are prone to ruptures)
  6. Periodontal EDS (gum inflammation, small teeth, hyperpigmentation on the skin, and hypermobile joints and skin)
  7. Brittle Cornea Syndrome (thin cornea, the progressive change of the curvature of the eye in a more globular shape, and blue coloration of the white of the eye)
  8. Classical-like EDS (joint hypermobility, very elastic skin but no atrophic scars, dislocations, and bruising)
  9. Musculocontractural EDS (sensitive skin, bruising, scars, and a specific facial appearance)
  10. Spondylodysplastic EDS (short stature, decreased muscle tone, and bowing of the legs)
  11. Myopathic EDS (low muscle density that usually improves with age; pain; loss of movement in the knee, hip, and elbow joints; and hypermobility in the ankles and hands)
  12. Vascular EDS (thin, transparent skin with visible veins; short stature; large eyes; thin nose, lobeless years, and an increased risk for artery and organ ruptures)
  13. Cardiac-valvular EDS (severe heart issues, skin problems, and joint hypermobility)

The most common subtypes of EDS are classical EDS and hypermobility EDS. The more problematic types of EDS are very rare. For example, the prevalence of cardiac-valvular subtype is less than one in a million people. 

Also, EDS is on a spectrum. Some people with EDS are simply more flexible and occasionally experience problems maintaining their balance due to loose joints, whereas other EDS sufferers may experience more severe symptoms that require urgent medical attention.

How EDS is diagnosed 

The diagnosis of EDS is often made based on symptoms. Depending on what subtype your medical provider believes you have, you may be also recommended the following tests:

Another tool your provider may use is the Beighton score, which helps determine how mobile your joints are.

Physical therapy for EDS

There’s no cure for EDS. However, you can prevent serious complications such as dislocations and falls due to loose joints. Physical therapy is one way you can stabilize your joints and prevent accidents. 

Our experts use a gentler form of Pilates to treat joint hypermobility without raising the risk for dislocations. We customize the treatment for your needs, so you won’t have to worry about being uncomfortable throughout the session. 

Aside from reducing the risks for falls, physical therapy can also reduce the risk of arthritis, which is often associated with EDS. Contact us to schedule an appointment and find out if physical therapy is the right treatment for your EDS subtype.

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