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Papers of the Week

2019 Nov 27

BMJ Case Rep



Recurrent swelling and pain in the abdomen and joints in a patient with hereditary angioedema and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.



A 23-year-old woman was referred to the allergy and immunology clinic for recurrent abdominal, cutaneous and joint swelling and pain with a history of mucosal infections since childhood. Her history and clinical findings were suggestive of two rare and complex disorders, hereditary angioedema (HAE) and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS). Her recurrent episodes of abdominal and joint pain were initially misattributed to more common diagnoses such as esophagitis, depression and chronic pain syndrome. However, the coexistence of HAE and EDS likely contributed to a delay in diagnoses as the combination of these two rare but overlapping disorders is less understood by physicians. She had persistently low levels of C4 and C1-esterase inhibitor (C1-INH) with low to low-normal C1-esterase function, normal C1Q and no C1Q antibodies. In the setting of recurrent abdominal pain with cutaneous swelling, this supported the diagnosis of HAE type I. The increase in joint extensibility with recurrent shoulder subluxations since childhood was a manifestation of EDS. Although no known genetic mutations were identified for EDS, her diagnosis was confirmed by a geneticist based on her clinical phenotype. Before the diagnosis of HAE and EDS, our patient had at least 100 visits/year to the emergency department/hospitalisations for these recurrent symptoms. After starting on C1-INH replacement therapy, the frequency has decreased 10-fold. She also noted a 70% improvement in her quality of life. Familiarity with these rare disorders will assist healthcare providers in recognising HAE and EDS and include them as part of their differential diagnoses. Early diagnosis is important for a patient's well-being as both these chronic disorders have been associated with poor quality of life. Additionally, proper diagnoses will reduce healthcare costs by preventing unnecessary procedures due to misdiagnoses. Proper treatment will help to decrease hospitalisations and avoidance of life-threatening consequences (such as asphyxiation from fatal laryngeal attacks of HAE and rupture of aneurysms in EDS).