Treatment options for Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS)
- Posted on- Feb 06, 2016
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Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) is a genetic disease. There are several different types of EDS but they all have a few symptoms in common, such as loose joints and elastic skin that bruises easily. Even with these common symptoms, each type of EDS has specific symptoms. For example, the symptoms of the classical type of EDS are primarily loose joints and elastic skin, while the primary symptoms of vascular EDS are usually thin elastic skin that you can see the veins through, with the risk of blood vessels rupturing as you age.
Because Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is genetic, there is no cure, but there are treatment options. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with EDS, there are some basic things you can do to help with the disease. You can take vitamin C to reduce the intensity of symptoms of some EDS types, exercise, make sure to receive yearly eye exams, take steps to protect your joints and avoid unneeded sun exposure. You can also take prescription medicine for the pain and inflammation in your joints.
The most commonly prescribed medicines are pain relievers and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). All NSAIDs have certain risks associated with them. The most common complaint is stomach problems, such as ulcers and heartburn. Because of these problems, it is recommended that you do not take NSAIDs on an empty stomach. Even over the counter versions of NSAIDs can have these side effects, so for mild pain relief doctors often recommend acetaminophen. There are limits to the amount of acetaminophen you can take in a day though. If the allowed daily amount of acetaminophen does not relieve your pain completely, your doctor will most likely give you a prescription for pain relievers.
A good strategy for preventing some joint problems is to protect your joints. There are several ways to accomplish this. The first way is to take a short break when doing a repetitive task such as typing, or switch to a different task for a short while. For example, if you work in an office and spend most of your time typing, you can either take a 15 minute break from work or you can make copies or file papers for 15 to 20 minutes. Another way to protect your joints is to use them in the proper manner to avoid stress on them. This means carrying a heavy box near your centre of gravity (your waist for most people) or, if you have a bulky load, has someone help you carry your load. You can also use different products to help with some daily tasks. You can use a cane for extra stability when you walk a wagon or cart to help carry grocery/shopping bags from your car to the house, or a grab bar in the shower to help you get in or out of the bathtub.
Some other treatment options for Ehlers-Danlos syndrome are eye exams, taking vitamin C supplements, reducing sun exposure, exercise and surgery. People with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome should get yearly eye exams because nearsightedness is common among Ehlers-Danlos syndrome sufferers and can be easily fixed with eyeglasses or contact lenses. Kyphoscoliosis EDS sufferers are especially at risk for eye problems and should see a doctor who has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome experience. Some EDS sufferers have experienced success with vitamin C reducing the intensity of their symptoms. Avoiding sun exposure is important because of the skin problems associated with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. The best way to avoid the sun while maintaining a normal schedule is to wear long pants, long sleeves and a wide-brimmed hat and put sunscreen on the remaining exposed skin. A sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 is best. The point of an exercise program as a treatment option for Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is to improve joint stability. Exercise accomplishes this by strengthening the muscles supporting the joint. Speak with your doctor for the best exercises for you, because you should avoid any exercise that puts stress on your joints.
The final option, surgery, is often used as a last resort. If surgery is used, it is often to correct fractures or dislocated joints. You should always tell your surgeon that you have EDS when you are scheduled for surgery. This way they can avoid using stitches to close your wound because your skin is more likely to tear than someone not affected by Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.