Greetings Earthlings! 🙂
This week I’d like to discuss another lesser known comorbidity with autism- joint hypermobility.
So what exactly is joint hypermobility?
It’s a pretty self-explanatory condition where joints have a larger range of motion than normal, more commonly referred to as being “double jointed”. The tissue connecting joints is much more stretchy so joints are highly flexible. This is usually caused by weak collagen- the main protein that makes up connective tissues that provide support in the body such as muscles, tendons, ligaments, bone etc.
Lots of people have hypermobile joints, but some may have hypermobility disorders such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) which negatively effects connective tissues. There are 13 types of EDS, each with different symptoms, but the most common type is hypermobile EDS with symptoms including painful and clicking joints, excessive bruising, digestive issues, unstable joints and thin stretchy skin. 8% of autists are estimated to have EDS, with even more estimated to have other types of hypermobility disorders. As both of these conditions are assessed by different types of doctors, it’s possible the co-occurrence rate is much higher than we realise.
In my own experience, I’ve always known that I was highly flexible, but I’d never considered that this might not be “normal”. My English teacher once looked at me recoiling in horror as I stared back confused and oblivious. Apparently my thumbs were freaking him out as I’m able to bend them backwards- something that I thought everyone was able to do!
Here’s a closer illustration for context:
I haven’t thought much of my joints for years, but recently both my physiotherapist and chiropractor described them as hypermobile. This seemingly has contributed to many injuries over the years- I’m currently dealing with a “wandering kneecap” among other things 😂. Lo and behold, a few weeks later I came across a study linking hypermobility to ASD’s and ADHD!
So how are the conditions linked?
Again, as with most aspects of the spectrum the link remains unclear, however, it does appear to be genetic. Hypermobility disorders are highly hereditary with 20% of mothers experiencing hypermobility reporting that they have an autistic child. A recent study compared the genes known to be related to hypermobility and autism and found that there was a lot of overlap between these genes and the pathways they interact with which likely explains why the two conditions are co-morbid. Immune system dysregulation has also been linked to both conditions, particularly during pregnancy (I will discuss the immune link to autism in more detail in a later post).
So there you have it, lot’s of autists are highly flexible- which is kind of ironic given how inflexible we can be in other areas of our lives 😜🤣
Hope you enjoyed this post dear Earthlings! 🙂
Have a lovely weekend!
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