According to a recent study, EDS and autism may have a close connection to one another. Numerous recent research studies have been published in which both autistic and EDS suspected patients were identified and studied in further detail.
But, Can EDS and Autism be linked with each other?
Yes, EDS and Autism are linked with each other in some cases. According to research conducted in 2020, those with EDS are more prone to have autism than those who have not been diagnosed with EDS. Furthermore, autistic persons have more excellent rates of joint hypermobility commonly, which is a significant hallmark of EDS.
Other common signs of both these conditions include the following:
- Gait issues
- Severe generalized pain
- Chronic fatigue
The Relationship Between EDS and Autism
Prevalence in Female Patients
It is a fact that female patients who have EDS or Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders (HSD) are more prone to have autistic kids. Thus, it appears that having a mother with HSD/EDS may be a substantial risk factor for developing autism in the kid.
This tenuous association has yet to be determined, although connective tissue proteins such as collagen may have a function in brain development, which is presently under investigation. Moms with EDS/HSD children who have autism spectrum disorders report more significant immunological difficulties than mothers with EDS/HSD children who do not have autistic children. This might imply that the mother’s immune system has a vital function to play in the neurodevelopment of the kid. It is now proved that there are correlations between the mother immune system and autism risk in the overall population. It also stands to reason that these effects may be magnified in a patients group like EDS, which has a high prevalence of immunological diseases.
EDS patients are also more susceptible to developing immune system illnesses, which occur when the body’s own autoimmune system assaults certain sections of the body, causing harmful effects or malfunction in those regions. Conditions such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism are examples of autoimmune diseases. Several additional immunological problems associated with EDS, such as (MCAS) or Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, appear to predispose people to develop autoimmunity; however, this is not true in every case. Families with members on the autistic spectrum have also been documented to have autoimmunity. At the same time, it is not totally clear if a mother’s autoantibodies have an impact on the development of autism during pregnancy or not. On the other hand, animal studies have suggested that maternal autoantibodies can affect brain development and, ultimately, behavioral development.
Aside from similarities in the immunity system, EDS and autism appear to have overlapping symptoms commonly referred to as autonomic problems (also known as “dysautonomias”).
The peripheral nervous system is a large branch of our nervous system extending outside the spinal cord and brain. It is comprised of nerves that are located outside of both these organs. The autonomic nervous system is a subbranch of the central nervous system that is located inside this system. This system’s automatic functions are respiration, cardiac output, digestion, temperature and sweat, amongst others. The sympathetic nervous system, generally known as the “fight or flight” response and the parasympathetic nervous system, i.e., known as “rest and digest” nervous systems, are the two subtypes of the autonomic nervous system further subdivided.
As shown in autism and EDS patients, the sympathetic nervous system’s fight-or-flight response appears to be hyperactive. In contrast, the parasympathetic branch’s rest-and-digest response appears to be underactive. Numerous symptoms, including an irregular heart rate, gastrointestinal difficulties such as constipation, increased anxiety, and even lightheadedness or vertigo, might result due to this condition. Some clinicians have begun treating some of these symptoms in their autistic patients with b-blockers such as propranolol, with varying degrees of effectiveness. In contrast, others have not.
Treatment of autistic children’s autonomic disorders with low frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) would seem to have soothing effects on the fight-or-flight division of the nervous system and positive inotropic effects on the rest-and-digest branch, allowing the two to become more normative. This therapy-induced gains in areas such as sociability, particularly the desire to interact, and attention span have been seen after a patient has completed treatment.
As a result of the communication impairments associated with autism, we may be unable to recognize and comprehend the pain experienced by persons with the disorder. Pain in persons who suffer from joint hypermobility disorders may be caused by laxity or the inclination to dislocate the hypermobile joint in question. Joint hypermobility results in more flexibility, resulting in a greater susceptibility to pain and stress since the tissue is more delicate.
When Ehlers-Danlos syndrome co-occurs with psychiatric disorders, research shows that persons with the illness have more pain symptoms than the general population. Another possible relationship between autism spectrum disorders and hypermobility spectrum diseases is mast cell activation syndrome (which is usually associated with painful conditions).
Experts provide an overview of the relationship between autism spectrum disorder and hypermobility-related illnesses. They suggest that distributing knowledge regarding the possible connection between the two ailments may be advantageous in therapeutic settings. A group of persons in whom it is challenging to screen for and manage pain may benefit from this intervention because they will be more aware of their pain and associated symptoms.
It is also vital to consider how both hEDS and autism impact females when investigating the connection between the two illnesses.
Masking, autism, and hEDS are all issues that need to be addressed
Autism is underdiagnosed among females, and there is rising evidence that females on the autism spectrum can camouflage or hide their symptoms. This may lead to a lag in the recognition of problems and the provision of necessary assistance.
If one considers that women are more likely than males to suffer from generalized hypermobility syndrome or EDS, it is possible that autism is even more widespread in persons with these conditions. Females/girls may be more likely to conceal their autistic tendencies than men. More study is needed, but researchers are unearthing more evidence that the old notion that EDS, and other joint hypermobility syndromes, are uncommon conditions that only impact the musculoskeletal system and soft tissues should be reconsidered.
Patients suffering from both EDS and Autism typically show autonomic issues, which may be associated with a lower average blood volume and worse circulation when going from a seated to a standing posture. Brain fog, dizziness, and even fainting are all possible signs of decreased blood supply to the brain due to this condition. Patients with chronic sympathetic overactivity and hypoactivation of the parasympathetic nervous system are also found within this group. Similar to autism, this condition can cause symptoms such as anxiety, difficulties concentrating, gastrointestinal issues, temperature sensitivity, shortness of breath (which is commonly misdiagnosed as asthma), and sleep abnormalities, among other symptoms.
EDS/HSD has received little scientific attention so far; however, there is an increasing interest within patient communities, as well as a desire for greater study. We hope that in the future, researchers and funding agencies will identify the importance of this overlap, as well as the implications it has for the overall quality of life of those on the spectrum and their affected family members and that they will devote more time and resources to investigating the relationship between EDS/HSD and autism spectrum disorders.