If you frequently dislocate your joints and have eye problems, the issues may be medically related. Frequent dislocation of joints may be caused by a connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which is due to a genetic mutation of the collagen in nearly each of your body's cells.
Other common symptoms of EDS include muscle stiffness and tightness, popping or clicking joints when moving and clumsiness.
Now, you may be wondering how these issues relate to the eyes. It's because your eyes are 80% collagen. Read on to learn the relationship between collagen in your eyes and the symptoms you’re experiencing.
Why Is Collagen in the Eyes Important?
The sclera of the eye, which is the white part, is made entirely of collagen. The cornea, which is the clear covering of your eyes, is mostly collagen. Therefore, if the collagen in your body is compromised by a connective tissue disorder, there's no doubt your eyes will be affected at some point in your life.
To visualize how compromised collagen can affect your eyes, think of each cell as a water balloon. It can stretch and bounce back without affecting the shape once the water inside the balloon has resettled. For people with a connective tissue disorder, the collagen in their cells can be compared to a balloon filled with slush or ice, depending on the severity of the condition. This balloon has no ability to stretch or bounce back.
What Eye Conditions Can Compromised Collagen Cause?
The ineffective collagen in the eyes can result in a number of eye conditions and problems. Some are simply irritating, such as blue sclera and light sensitivity, while others may be life-changing, such as:
- Detached retina. The ineffective collagen causes the eye to expand or lengthen, which can cause the retina to detach.
- Glaucoma. Lack of effective collagen can cause pressure in the eye to increase, which causes impairment of vision.
- Keratoconus. The cornea can curve abnormally, which causes distortion of images.
- Macular degeneration. Retinal blood vessels can leak or break and cause wet macular degeneration, or the retina can deteriorate or wear out and cause dry macular degeneration, both of which can lead to vision loss.
- Conjunctival redundancy. The conjunctiva (the covering of the sclera), becomes loose and sags, which results in pain and the feeling of a foreign substance in the eye.
It's important to note that Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is a progressive condition, even though it is genetic. Over time, the continued inability for your cells to bounce back can cause a rapid progression of various problems.
What Other Conditions Does Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Cause?
In addition to life-changing eye conditions caused by Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, there are a number of life-changingco-morbid health conditions that you need to be aware of, including dysautonomia, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, Type 1 Chiari malformation and craniocervical instability. EDS is not curable, but there may be treatments available for the various co-morbid problems and conditions that are associated with the connective tissue disorder.
Who Should You See for Diagnosis & Treatment?
Since EDS is a genetic condition, you will need to be diagnosed by a geneticist. You can get a referral to a geneticist through us or through your primary care physician. If you are given a diagnosis of EDS, you will likely also be given a list of referrals to see other specialists, such as a rheumatologist, a dermatologist, a cardiologist, a neurologist and a physical therapist.
It is highly recommended for EDS patients to schedule regular eye exams and to notify us of any changes in your eyes or vision. During your first visit with us, we will establish a baseline to use as a comparison for future exams. That way, we can easily take note of changes in your eyes and vision due to Ehlers-Danlos being a progressive condition.