Individuals with hypermobility spectrum disorder or hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (HSD/hEDS) are increasingly encountered by gastroenterologists and pose complex clinical challenges. Uncontrolled studies have found functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs) to be common in patients with HSD/hEDS. Some patients have somatic symptoms (medically unexplained symptoms) that might affect FGIDs. We performed a case-control study to determine the prevalence of and factors associated with Rome IV FGIDs in subjects with HSD/hEDS compared with age- and sex- matched population-based controls.
An online general health survey was completed by 603 individuals with HSD/hEDS in October 2018 (cases) and 603 matched individuals from the population of the United Kingdom (controls) in 2015. The mean participant age was 39 yrs, and 96% were women. The survey included questions about Rome IV FGIDs, non-GI and non-musculoskeletal somatic symptoms (maximum number, 10), quality of life, medical history and healthcare use. The prevalence of FGIDs was compared between cases and controls, with subsequent logistic regression models – adjusting for the number of somatic symptoms – used to determine the associations for FGIDs in HSD/hEDS compared with controls.
Nearly all subjects (98%) with HSD/hEDS fulfilled symptom-based criteria for 1 or more Rome IV FGIDs, compared with 47% of controls (P<.0001). The gastrointestinal regions most commonly affected by FGIDs in individuals with HSD/hEDS and control subjects were the bowel (90% vs 40% of controls), gastroduodenal (70% vs 13% of controls), esophageal (56% vs 6% of controls), and anorectal (53% vs 9% of controls); P<.0001. A higher proportion of subjects with HSD/hEDS had FGIDs in 2 or more regions (84% vs 15% of controls; P<.0001). Subjects with HSD/hEDS also reported a significantly higher number of non-GI and non-musculoskeletal somatic symptoms (7.1 vs 3.3 in controls), lower quality of life, and greater healthcare use, including abdominal surgeries and medication use (for example, 84% used analgesics compared with 29% of controls). Almost 40% of subjects with HSD/hEDS reported a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome and/or fibromyalgia. Following adjustments for somatic symptoms, the association for FGIDs in subjects with HSD/hEDS was reduced by as much as 4-fold and in some instances was eliminated.
In a large case-control study of persons with HSD/hEDS, almost all of the cases met criteria for Rome IV FGIDs, incurred considerable health impairment, and had high healthcare use. Patients with HSD/hEDS frequently have somatic symptoms that should be treated to reduce the high burden of gastrointestinal illness in this population.

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