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What is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?

Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is a group of inherited disorders that affect your connective tissues — primarily your skin, joints and blood vessel walls. Connective tissue is a complex mixture of proteins and other substances that provide strength and elasticity to the underlying structures in your body.

Overview

Additional Information

People who have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome usually have overly flexible joints and stretchy, fragile skin. This can become a problem if you have a wound that requires stitches, because the skin often isn't strong enough to hold them.


A more severe form of the disorder, called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, vascular type, can cause the walls of your blood vessels, intestines or uterus to rupture. 


Signs and symptoms of the most common form of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome include:

  • Overly flexible joints. Because the connective tissue that holds joints together is looser, your joints can move far past the normal range of motion. Joint pain and dislocations are common.
  • Stretchy skin. Weakened connective tissue allows your skin to stretch much more than usual. You may be able to pull a pinch of skin up away from your flesh, but it will snap right back into place when you let go. Your skin might also feel exceptionally soft and velvety.
  • Fragile skin. Damaged skin often doesn't heal well. For example, the stitches used to close a wound often will tear out and leave a gaping scar. These scars may look thin and crinkly.

Symptom severity can vary from person to person. Some people with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome will have overly flexible joints, but few or none of the skin symptoms.


People who have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, vascular type, often share distinctive facial features of a thin nose, thin upper lip, small earlobes and prominent eyes. They also have thin, translucent skin that bruises very easily. In fair-skinned people, the underlying blood vessels are very visible through the skin.


Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, vascular type, can weaken your heart's largest artery (aorta), as well as the arteries to other regions of your body. A rupture of any of these larger blood vessels can be fatal. The vascular type can also weaken the walls of the uterus or large intestines — which also may rupture.


Complications depend on the types of signs and symptoms you have. For example, overly flexible joints can result in joint dislocations and early-onset arthritis. Fragile skin may develop prominent scarring.

People who have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, vascular type, are at risk of often fatal ruptures of major blood vessels. Some organs, such as the uterus and intestines, also may rupture.




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