Children with Ehlers Danlos Face Severe Food Allergy Risk
Life is already difficult for children who have Ehlers Danlos syndrome, which is characterized by joint hypermobility, cardiovascular issues, and other problems. Now a new study indicates these children may face a high risk for severe food allergy that is difficult to manage.
Allergy risk found in Ehlers Danlos type 3
Ehlers Danlos syndrome is a group of inheritable disorders in which individuals have genetic defects that cause problems with a protein called collagen, a material in connective tissue. Connective tissue provides support to the skin, muscles, organs, and ligaments, and so individuals with the syndrome experience a range of symptoms and life challenges.
There are six main different types of Ehlers Danlos syndrome, and each type is classified by its characteristic signs and symptoms. Ehlers Danlos syndrome type 3 is most characterized by joint hypermobility that affects both large (knees, elbows) and small (toes, fingers) joints.
Rebecca M. Cutts, MBBS, of Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London, and her colleagues, announced at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology they had discovered a high prevalence of food allergy among 19 children with Ehlers Danlos syndrome type 3.
Children with Ehlers Danlos type 3 often experience dislocations of their joints, especially of the shoulder, knee, and temporomandibular joint (in the jaw). Chronic limb and joint pain is common and can be debilitating, and hyperextensibility of the skin and bruising vary in severity.
Among the 11 boys and 8 girls in the study, who averaged about 8 years of age, 74% tested positive for allergy to milk, egg, wheat, and soy using the food elimination test. A few also exhibited symptoms when exposed to bananas, dairy products, gluten, and nuts.
Typically, individuals who are allergic to foods can control their symptoms if they avoid the offending items. However, among children with Ehlers Danlos type 3, it’s not that simple. Cutts noted, “This is a population that is extremely difficult to manage.”
Symptoms among these children included abdominal pain (90%) and constipation (90%), and all of them needed several medications, including antihistamines and immunosuppressants. Two-thirds required proton pump inhibitors, and 13 children required artificial nutrition either via a stomach tube or intravenously.
More about Ehlers Danlos syndrome
The prevalence of Ehlers Danlos syndrome is approximately 1 in 5,000, affects both males and females equally, and crosses all racial and ethnic borders.
Gastrointestinal problems are common in Ehlers Danlos syndrome because of the fragile nature of the connective tissues. Therefore, individuals can experience gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diarrhea, hiatal hernia, and other complications.
Children and adults with Ehlers Danlos syndrome face daily challenges associated with joint hypermobility and skin issues. Their loose and unstable joints make them highly likely to develop osteoarthritis at an early age, and their fragile skin makes them prone to tears and bruising that is accompanied by slow wound healing and the possible development of molluscoid pseudo tumors (lesions that develop over pressure areas).
In addition to living with these challenges, people with Ehlers Danlos syndrome have reported receiving poor attention from the medical community. A study published in the January 2010 issue of Disability and Rehabilitation noted individuals with the disease reported “being ignored and belittled by health-care professionals” and sometimes “being treated and considered merely as an object.”
The findings of this latest study suggest children with Ehlers Danlos type 3 may face the risk of severe food allergies that are difficult to manage. Parents of affected children may want to seek help or support from knowledgeable health-care providers, support organizations such as the Ehlers-Danlos National Foundation, and parents of other children with the syndrome.
Cutts R et al. Gastrointestinal food allergies in children with Ehlers Danlos type 3 syndrome. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology 2012; abstract 129
Ehlers-Danlos National Foundation
Solomon JA et al. GI Manifestations of ED. Am J Gastroenterol 1996 Nov; 91(11): 22820-28
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