Ehlers Danlos and Autism

According to new research, EDS and autism may have substantial ties. Patients who have both autism and EDS have been identified/diagnosed in their earlier life due to severe symptoms. Furthermore, according to a 2016 study conducted in Sweden, those with EDS are more likely to be diagnosed with autism than those without the illness. Autistic people had greater rates of joint hypermobility in general, which is a prominent hallmark of EDS.

Scientists have recently discovered that moms with EDS or a diagnosis of the closely related Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders (HSD) (previously known as Joint Hypermobility Syndrome) are just as likely to have autistic children as mothers who are themselves autistic. This shows that EDS/HSD in the mother may be a substantial risk factor for the child’s development of autism.

Is there a relation between EDS and autism?

Yes, there is a significant relationship between these two ailments. The researchers discovered that more than 20% of moms with EDS/HSD had autistic children, which is similar to the rate reported by mothers who are themselves on the autism spectrum.

Conditions that are linked in both autism and EDS:

Many conditions are linked between these two disorders, such as:

  1. Collagen may be the real and symbolic link between the two disorders. Collagen plays a crucial part in the brain’s development. It’s plentiful in the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Radial glia cells, a type of neural progenitor cell, adhere to the membrane-like scaffold in a typical embryo. If the cells can’t join properly due to collagen issues, brain growth may be hampered. This, however, is only a conjecture.
  2. Another potential is immunological problems, which are common in people with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Autism is also associated with immune system issues: immunological abnormalities in the mother or infection during pregnancy, for example, are associated with an increased chance of autism in the child. In Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, doctors believe a similar association exists.

People with EDS/HSD are also more susceptible to develop autoimmune illnesses, which occur when the body’s own immune system assaults certain body parts, causing damage or dysfunction. Psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism are examples of these. Other immunological problems associated with EDS/HSD, such as Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS), appear to predispose to autoimmunity, albeit this is not always the case. Autoimmunity has also been found in families of people living with autism, though it’s unclear if a mother’s autoantibodies have a role in developing autism during pregnancy. On the other hand, maternal autoantibodies have been shown in animal models to alter brain and behavioral development.

Dysautonomia

Autonomic dysfunction, also known as dysautonomia, is a disorder in which the autonomic nervous system (ANS) does not function properly. The heart, bladder, intestines, sweat glands, pupils, and blood vessels may all be affected. Aside from the immune system, there appears to be symptom overlap between EDS and autism regarding autonomic abnormalities (also known as “dysautonomia”).

The peripheral nervous system is a branch of the nervous system outside of the brain and spinal cord. The human autonomic nervous system is a subdivision of this system. Breathing, cardiac output, digestion, temperature, and sweat are among the automated functions controlled by this system. The sympathetic (“flight or fight “) and parasympathetic (“digest and rest “) nervous systems are then separated from the autonomic nervous system.

The fight-or-flight sympathetic nervous system appears to be overactive in autism and EDS, while the rest-and-digest parasympathetic branch appears to be underactive. This can cause various symptoms, including an irregular heart rate, gastrointestinal issues such as constipation, increased anxiety, and even lightheadedness and dizziness. Using some effectiveness, some clinicians have begun treating some of these symptoms in autistic patients with beta-blockers such as propranolol (although it is contraindicated in people with asthma).

Dr Manuel Casanova has also worked on treating autonomic issues in autistic children with low-frequency repeated transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), which appears to help calm some of the hyperexcitability of the brain in autism and has both relaxing and stimulatory effects on the fight-or-flight branch of the nervous system. Following treatment, behavioral gains were observed in areas such as socializing, including the desire to socialize and the ability to concentrate.

Autonomic dysregulation is common in patients with EDS, which has been associated with a lower average blood volume and worse circulation when going from a seated to a standing posture (also known as “orthostatic intolerance”). This can result in a decrease in blood supply to the brain, which can cause symptoms including brain fog, dizziness, and even fainting. Chronic sympathetic overactivity and hypoactivity of the parasympathetic nervous system are also seen in these patients. Anxiety, difficulties concentrating, gastrointestinal difficulties, temperature sensitivity, shortness of breath (misdiagnosed as asthma), and sleep difficulties can all be signs of this illness, similar to autism. Propranolol, a beta-blocker, is occasionally used to treat people with EDS and autonomic dysregulation, particularly those who have tachycardia (an abnormally high heart rate). It helps to slow down the heart. We are confident that low-frequency rTMS can help these individuals in the future, reducing some of the more severe dysautonomia symptoms.

Conclusion:

The reasons for this shaky link are unknown; however, it could be related to the roles that connective tissue proteins like collagen also play a role in human brain development. However, our research has discovered that EDS/HSD moms who have autistic children have more immunological difficulties than EDS/HSD women who do not have autistic children. This could indicate that the mother’s immune system is vital in developing the child’s brain. We already know there are correlations between the maternal immunological system and autism risk in the common population, so it stands to reason that these effects would be amplified in a clinical population like EDS, which has a high prevalence of immunological diseases.

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