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Other symptoms and related conditions

Is joint hypermobility syndrome linked to arthritis or other conditions?

Joint hypermobility isn't itself a type of arthritis. However, in some cases it may be associated with osteoarthritis – for example, when there is an abnormal shape to the joint or there has been a tear to the cartilage and this has become worn. 

There's no evidence that the symptoms of osteoarthritis are any worse in people who are hypermobile than in those who aren't. If you're hypermobile we'd recommend keeping to a healthy weight as it's known that obesity is often an important factor in the development of osteoarthritis.

Although joint hypermobility syndrome can cause symptoms in various parts of the body, in most cases it isn't linked to other health problems. However, there are some much rarer inherited conditions that can be associated with hypermobility. These include:

  • osteogenesis imperfecta a genetic condition existing at birth (congenital) resulting in fragile bones that fracture more easily than usual. The whites of the eyes often appear blue in people who have this condition.
  • Marfan syndrome – a rare inherited disorder that affects the connective tissues of the body (the material that binds together other tissue). It's characterised by unusually long, thin fingers and toes, heart defects, extreme tallness, and partial dislocation of the eye lens.
  • some types of Ehlers–Danlos syndrome (EDS) – which are rare inherited collagen disorders. Joint hypermobility syndrome is sometimes referred to as Ehlers–Danlos syndrome type 3. However, people with other rarer types may have unusually stretchy and fragile skin that bruises easily, heals slowly and leaves scars. The joints tend to be looser than normal and more prone to dislocation. Rarely there may also be weakness of the blood vessels and bowel wall such that these may rupture.

Other symptoms linked to hypermobility

Research suggests that people with hypermobile joints may have more supple collagen in other parts of the body as well, which can sometimes cause other symptoms. For example:

  • Weakness in the muscles that squeeze food through the digestive system can lead to constipation, bloating and pain (similar to irritable bowel syndrome or IBS), or gastric reflux where acid from the stomach flows back into the gullet causing a painful burning sensation.
  • Weakness in the muscles of the pelvic floor may lead to bladder instability and stress incontinence.
  • Sometimes the heart valves may be floppy – this may not cause any symptoms and may only be discovered by chance during a routine medical examination. However, it may be associated with chest pains and palpitations.
  • Blood pressure may be lower than normal, so people may be more prone to feeling faint. If blood pressure drops when you stand up, or sit up from a lying position, then your heart rate may increase noticeably as it pushes blood back up to your head – this is known as postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS).

If you have one of these rarer conditions or complications then the symptoms may have a greater impact on everyday life than if you only have hypermobile joints. If you do have any symptoms that concern you, speak to your doctor, who will be able to arrange tests if needed and to offer appropriate treatments.

For more information, go to www.arthritisresearchuk.org.
Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.