There are numerous types of EDS, all caused by changes in one of several genes. The manner in which EDS is inherited depends on the specific gene involved. There are three patterns of inheritance for EDS: autosomal dominant, autosomal recessive, and X-linked (extremely rare).
Chromosomes are made up of hundreds of small units known as genes, which contain the genetic material necessary for an individual to develop and function. Humans have 46 chromosomes, which are matched into 23 pairs. Because chromosomes are inherited in pairs, each individual receives two copies of each chromosome and likewise two copies of each gene.
Changes or mutations in genes can cause genetic diseases in several different ways, many of which are represented within the spectrum of EDS. In autosomal dominant EDS, only one copy of a specific gene must be changed for a person to have EDS. In autosomal recessive EDS, both copies of a specific gene must be changed for a person to have EDS. If only one copy of an autosomal recessive EDS gene is changed the person is referred to as a carrier, meaning they do not have any of the signs or symptoms of the disease itself, but carry the possibility of passing on the disorder to a future child. In X-linked EDS a specific gene on the X chromosome must be changed. However, this affects males and females differently because males and females have a different number of X chromosomes.
As of 2001 the few X-linked forms of EDS fall under the category of X-linked recessive. As with autosomal recessive, this implies that both copies of a specific gene must be changed for a person to be affected. However, because males only have one X-chromosome, they are affected if an X-linked recessive EDS gene is changed on their single X-chromosome. That is, they are affected even though they have only one changed copy. On the other hand, that same gene must be changed on both of the X-chromosomes in a female for her to be affected.
Although there is much information regarding the changes in genes that cause EDS and their various inheritance patterns, the exact gene mutation for all types of EDS is not known.
Clinical symptoms such as extreme joint looseness and unusual skin qualities, along with family history, can lead to a diagnosis of EDS.
Specific tests, such as skin biopsies are available for diagnosis of certain types of EDS, including vascular, arthrochalasia, and dermatosparaxis types. A skin biopsy involves removing a small sample of skin and examining its microscopic structure. A urine test is available for the Kyphoscoliosis type.
Management of all types of EDS may include genetic counseling to help the affected individual and their family understand the disorder and its impact on other family members and future children.
If a couple has had a child diagnosed with EDS the chance that they will have another child with the same disorder depends on with what form of EDS the child has been diagnosed and if either parent is affected by the same disease or not. Individuals diagnosed with an autosomal dominant form of EDS have a 50% chance of passing the same disorder on to a child in each pregnancy. Individuals diagnosed with an autosomal recessive form of EDS have an extremely low risk of having a child with the same disorder.
X-linked recessive EDS is accompanied by a slightly more complicated pattern of inheritance. If a father with an X-linked recessive form of EDS passes a copy of his X chromosome to his children, the sons will be unaffected and the daughters will be carriers. If a mother is a carrier for an X-linked recessive form of EDS, she may have affected or unaffected sons, or carrier or unaffected daughters, depending on the second sex chromosome inherited from the father.
Prenatal diagnosis is available for specific forms of EDS, including kyphosocliosis type and vascular type. However, prenatal testing is only a possibility in these types if the underlying defect has been found in another family member.
Medical therapy relies on managing symptoms and trying to prevent further complications. There is no cure for EDS.
Braces may be prescribed to stabilize joints, although surgery is sometimes necessary to repair joint damage caused by repeated dislocations. Physical therapy teaches individuals how to strengthen muscles around joints and may help to prevent or limit damage. Elective surgery is discouraged due to the high possibility of complications
There are anecdotal reports that large daily doses 0.04-0.14 oz (1-4 g) of vitamin C may help decrease bruising and aid in wound healing. Constitutional homeopathic treatment may be helpful in maintaining optimal health in persons with a diagnosis of EDS. An individual with EDS should discuss these types of therapies with their doctor before beginning them on their own. Therapy that does not require medical consultation involves protecting the skin with sunscreen and avoiding activities that place stress on the joints.
The outlook for individuals with EDS depends on the type of EDS with which they have been diagnosed. Symptoms vary in severity, even within one sub-type, and the frequency of complications changes on an individual basis. Some individuals have negligible symptoms while others are severely restricted in their daily life. Extreme joint instability and scoliosis may limit a person^s mobility. Most individuals will have a normal lifespan. However, those with blood vessel involvement, particularly those with EDS vascular type, have an increased risk of fatal complications.
EDS is a lifelong condition. Affected individuals may face social obstacles related to their disease on a daily basis. Some people with EDS have reported living with fears of significant and painful skin ruptures, becoming pregnant (especially those with EDS vascular type), their condition worsening, becoming unemployed due to physical and emotional burdens, and social stigmatization in general.
Constant bruises, skin wounds, and trips to the hospital take their toll on both affected children and their parents. Prior to diagnosis parents of children with EDS have found themselves under suspicion of child abuse.
Some people with EDS are not diagnosed until well into adulthood and, in the case of EDS vascular type, occasionally not until after death due to complications of the disorder. Not only may the diagnosis itself be devastating to the family, but in many cases other family members find out for the first time they are at risk for being affected.
Although individuals with EDS face significant challenges, it is important to remember that each person is unique with their own distinguished qualities and potential. Persons with EDS go on to have families, to have careers, and to be accomplished citizens, surmounting the challenges of their disease.