Main types of Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS)

There are 13 types of EDS, most of which are very rare.

Hypermobile EDS (hEDS) is the most common type.

Other types of EDS include classical EDS, vascular EDS and kyphoscoliotic EDS.

The EDS Support UK website has more information about the different types of EDS.

Hypermobile EDS

People with hEDS may have:

Currently, there are no tests to confirm whether someone has hEDS.

The diagnosis is made based on a person's medical history and a physical examination.

Classical EDS

Classical EDS (cEDS) is less common than hypermobile EDS and tends to affect the skin more.

People with cEDS may have:

  • joint hypermobility
  • loose, unstable joints that dislocate easily
  • stretchy skin
  • fragile skin that can split easily, especially over the forehead, knees, shins and elbows
  • smooth, velvety skin that bruises easily
  • wounds that are slow to heal and leave wide scars
  • hernias and organ prolapse

Vascular EDS

Vascular EDS (vEDS) is a rare type of EDS and is often considered to be the most serious.

It affects the blood vessels and internal organs, which can cause them to split open and lead to life-threatening bleeding.

People with vEDS may have:

  • skin that bruises very easily
  • thin skin with visible small blood vessels, particularly on the upper chest and legs
  • fragile blood vessels that can bulge or tear, resulting in serious internal bleeding
  • a risk of organ problems, such as the bowel tearing, the womb tearing (in late pregnancy) and partial collapse of the lung
  • hypermobile fingers and toes, unusual facial features (such as a thin nose and lips, large eyes and small earlobes), varicose veins and delayed wound healing

Kyphoscoliotic EDS

Kyphoscoliotic EDS (kEDS) is rare.

People with kEDS may have:

  • curvature of the spine – this starts in early childhood and often gets worse in the teenage years
  • joint hypermobility
  • loose, unstable joints that dislocate easily
  • weak muscle tone from childhood (hypotonia) – this may cause a delay in sitting and walking, or difficulty walking if symptoms get worse
  • fragile eyes that can easily be damaged
  • soft, velvety skin that is stretchy, bruises easily and scars

Getting medical advice

See a GP if you have several troublesome symptoms of EDS.

You do not usually need to worry if you only have a few symptoms and they're not causing any problems.

Joint hypermobility, for example, is relatively common, affecting around 1 in 30 people. So it's unlikely to be caused by EDS if you do not have any other symptoms.

Your GP may refer you to a joint specialist (rheumatologist) if you have problems with your joints and they suspect EDS.

If there's a possibility you may have 1 of the rare types of EDS, your GP can refer you to your local genetics service for an assessment.

The local genetics specialist will ask about your medical history, family history, assess your symptoms and may carry out a genetic blood test to confirm the diagnosis.

If further investigation is needed, your hospital doctor can refer you to a specialist EDS diagnostic service based in Sheffield or London.

EDS can be inherited, but in some cases it occurs by chance in someone without a family history of the condition.

The 2 main ways EDS is inherited are:

A person with EDS can only pass on the same type of EDS to their children.

For example, the children of someone with hypermobile EDS cannot inherit vascular EDS.

The severity of the condition can vary within the same family.

More information

The following websites provide more information, advice and support for people with EDS and their families:

Information about you

If you have EDS, your clinical team will pass information about you on to the National Congenital Anomaly and Rare Diseases Registration Service

This helps scientists look for better ways to prevent and treat this condition.

You can opt out of the register at any time.