Thursday, March 5, 2020

Rare Disease Day, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

The zebra is the mascot for EDS because medical professionals are often taught,
 when you hear hoofbeats, think horse not zebra. But people with EDS are zebras.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons
February 29 was Rare Disease Day. I’m a few days late, but here’s my rare disease story: Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (incidence 1/10,000 to 1/20,000 for my subtype).

After a lifetime of knowing something wasn’t quite right with my body, a geneticist recently diagnosed me with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a genetic connective tissue disease, which affects all the body’s organs and tissues causing deterioration and degeneration. The subtype I have is characterized by pain and exhaustion. (Honestly, I don’t remember a time I wasn’t fighting pain or exhaustion—I thought it was normal. I told myself, “Suck it up, Buttercup.”) Without going into the nitty-gritty, the geneticist explained my condition this way: Imagine your body is a house built with nails that are soft. It’s not too bad at first. But over time, the nails fail. The shingles and siding blow off. The wallboard falls down, and the floors come apart. And, the 2 X 4s holding the structure together start to separate from each other.  (Not the most encouraging metaphor…)

There is no treatment for EDS. The only thing doctors can do is treat the symptoms. Because my house is in its fifth decade, a lot of things are falling apart (spine, joints, eyes, digestive system, circulatory system, etc.). But I am thankful. After 53 years, it’s nice to know why.