As a kid, you might have thought you were extra flexible. Perhaps you excelled as a dancer or gymnast because of your natural ability to do a split without effort, or to be able to contort your body in a way that elicited envy from your peers. While this extra flexibility can be advantageous in your younger years, it can also lead to chronic musculoskeletal pain around your joints and loose skin.
This condition, known as hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) is one of the most common, yet least recognized, inherited connective tissue disorders. Are you or your child simply just extra flexible, or do you have hypermobile EDS?
Dr. Nichelle Renk of Alpenglow Pain & Wellness in Anchorage, Alaska, is the only EDS provider in the state of Alaska. Dr. Renk is an expert in pain management and has extensive experience treating hypermobile EDS as naturally as possible. Here’s how to tell if you may have this connective tissue disorder and what you can do about it.
Hypermobile EDS is the least severe type of this disorder
Hypermobile EDS is a genetic condition, but the cause of this condition isn’t clear. If you have hypermobile EDS, common signs include unusual joint flexibility and slightly stretchy skin. The reason for this is because EDS is the result of defects in the type of collagen your body produces.
Common signs of hypermobile EDS include:
- Joint hypermobility in your pelvis, hips, shoulders, elbows, knees, fingers, and toes
- Stretchy skin
- Tendency to bruise easily
- Frequent joint dislocations
- Chronic musculoskeletal pain
- Jaw pain/tension in your temporomandibular joint
Hypermobile EDS is common among children and adolescents, and it can lead to problems in adulthood, including:
- Early onset osteoarthritis
- Cardiovascular problems
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Autonomic nervous system problems
If you or a family member has any of these symptoms, it could mean hypermobile EDS.
How we determine if you have hypermobile EDS
Dr. Renk looks for several things when she evaluates you for hypermobile EDS. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in addition to hyperflexible joints, you must also have at least five additional symptoms from a list of potential problems that includes:
- Soft, velvety skin
- Skin that’s extra stretchy
- Heel papules
- Abdominal hernias
- Pelvic, rectal, or uterine prolapse
- Crowded teeth
- Mitral valve prolapse
- Unexplained skin scarring or stretch marks
Additional musculoskeletal problems that help determine an EDS diagnosis may include:
- Daily pain in two or more limbs for at least three months
- Recurrent joint dislocation
- Chronic widespread pain
Hypermobile EDS is hereditary, so if you have another family member with this condition and you meet the additional criteria, then it’s highly likely you have the disorder as well.
Living with hypermobile EDS
The goal of treatment for hypermobile EDS is to improve your joint stability and provide long-term pain relief as naturally as possible. Depending on your individual needs, Dr. Renk may prescribe physical therapy to help strengthen your muscles, braces to stabilize your joints, and potentially procedures to improve your pain and stability of our joints. She may also monitor you for signs of developing arthritis and low bone density.
Chronic musculoskeletal pain and joint instability can negatively impact your daily activities and profoundly affect your quality of life. If you believe you or a family member has this genetic condition, don’t hesitate to seek professional diagnosis and treatment for hypermobile EDS, so you can prevent future problems and improve the quality of your life today.
Contact our Anchorage office by phone at 907-313-2976, or send us a message online to request a consultation with Dr. Renk.