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Professional Membership of the HMSA, Jo Southall (OT) for #HMSAware

Posted By FLICK MCLUCKIE, February 24, 2017
My relationship with the HMSA started way back in 2010. At the time I was a 19 year old outdoor adventure instructor with mystery joint pain and an impressive range of injuries. A physiotherapist mentioned I was ‘pretty hypermobile’. After half an hour on google and I was fairly convinced I did, in fact have Hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. I spent the next year on the then HMSA forums, learning everything I could. When I finally managed to see a rheumatologist they confirmed my suspicions. 
The diagnosis was a turning point my life, It became clear that my impressive range of injuries were unlikely to clear up and my job was likely to become impossible. Age 21 I got my first wheelchair and headed off to university to study Occupational Therapy.  Over the 5 years it took me to become an Occupational Therapist the HMSA was a constant source of support and I did my best to repay the favour by volunteering.  Now I’ve finished university and the HMSA continues to be a source of support and inspiration, not only in my personal life but my professional one as well.  
Part of the HMSA’s mission is to support people with hypermobility syndromes and this includes creating a wider network of experts across the UK and around the world. Many of our members are severely disabled by their conditions, this is exacerbated by lack of access to medical professionals with the interest and proper knowledge base to help. By spreading awareness to both the general public and health and social care professionals we aim to support early diagnosis and proper intervention.
Becoming a professional member gains you access to our evidence base, professional support and development. The Professionals only groups provide learning and networking opportunities. As a professional member you also get priority booking for professional development events.    
The HMSA provides a constant supply of information standard approved resources, the perfect starting place if you’re new to the condition. Regular updates are provided in the twice yearly journals and quarterly e-newsletters and as a professional member you have the opportunity to submit articles and get published in both of these. Professional membership also offers you access to a highly trained and dedicated team of health and social care experts on Heritable Disorders of Connective Tissue. Initial contacts for this are Dr Alan Hakim (Chief Medical Advisor) , Ms. Donna Wicks (CEO/RMN). If you’re a researcher the HMSA will also provide email support and even assist with recruitment for relevant studies.  There is also the option of having your details on a ‘contact list’ for the HMSA to use to inform patients of your services.  
There is more information about the specific benefits of Professional membership on the HMSA website.
Personally, I think there is one benefit worth more than any of the others. As a professional member you have the opportunity to learn how living with a hypermobility syndrome truly impacts the lives of your patients. The HMSA is run by a dedicated team of volunteers and supporters, many of them, (like myself) are trained health and social care professionals. They are also patients. Living well with a hypermobility syndrome often means daily physiotherapy, lifestyle adaptations, mobility aids, medications and more. The day to day experiences of patients are parts of life that medical professionals are rarely privy to. Here with the HMSA you have the opportunity to experience that, learn from it and use it to improve your professional practice.   

Jo Southall, HMSA Volunteer & Independent Occupational Therapist.

To support the work we do please Just Text “HMSA13 £5” (or your preferred amount) to 70770. Your donation is appreciated and goes directly to members support, we are volunteer run so we don’t have large overheads.

#HMSAware, Differential Diagnosis in the hypermobility spectrum


In medicine, differential diagnosis is the distinguishing of a particular disease or condition from others that present similar symptoms.  By bringing heritable disorders of connective tissue together under the HMSA umbrella, and raising awareness of the symptoms that can overlap between these disorders, we hope to increase the chances of patients, and the physicians treating them, recognising that there is list of potential possibilities for the symptoms experienced, thus increasing the chances of accurate diagnosis. Click here to read Rachel Martin’s account of just how important the consideration of a differential diagnosis was to her life.

by Rachel Martin
I was born with a cleft palate, a split uvula and was a very “floppy” baby. I’m still “floppy” today. I’ve no core strength, but as an adult I can manage it better. My mum had awful trouble feeding me. I had surgery on my cleft palate at 18 months but the surgeon said that it wasn’t the reason for my low appetite.
Tests were carried out in Crumlin hospital and they discovered that I had a diaphragmatic hernia, all of my organs were on the wrong side of my body. My parents didn’t know what was going on. It was the 1980s. There were no support groups and no genetic testing.
Growing up I was told I had congenital muscle myopathy – weak muscles. Imagine explaining that to someone in the playground. It was really making me stand out from everyone else because I was “different”. And I hate using that word, but that’s the way I felt.
I had my chest flattened as a teenager because I had pectus carinatum, a chest that protruded out. It’s called a pigeon chest, and mine was very severe.
They also tried to fix my shockingly flat feet and my crooked big toes, but that wasn’t a success unfortunately.
In 2001, I arranged to go and have an echo done, ‘just in case’! When I met the cardiologist afterwards, he immediately labelled me as having Marfan syndrome (MFS), and that is what I lived with until July 2008!
In early 2008, my brother who lives in Boston was travelling to work and heard Dr. Dietz speak about clinical tests with losartan for Marfan syndrome patients on the radio, and also heard him mention the National Marfan Foundation conference in Boston the following July. My brother encouraged me to fly over from Ireland to attend the conference but it took a little persuasion with various pieces of the jigsaw fitting together perfectly. I signed up for the conference and went. I was also lucky enough to be accepted for clinic appointments on the Friday, seeing genetics, orthopaedics, cardiology and ophthalmology.
I had an echo carried out on the Thursday and then came back for the clinic on the Friday. As soon as the geneticist saw me, the question of Loeys-Dietz syndrome (described by Dr. Bart Loeys and Dr. Harry Dietz in 2005) was raised. The white of my eyes are slightly blue, stretched surgery scars, the cleft palate and split uvula are all classic signs of Loeys-Dietz syndrome (LDS). Many of my other features are common to Marfan, such as long digits and lax joints. 
When the ophthalmologist confirmed my eyes were fine, that added to the possibility of my clinical diagnosis of Marfan syndrome being incorrect. The echo was then measuring an aortic root dilation of 4.1 cm and it was advised that I should have heart surgery straight away.
Obviously I was upset, shaken and confused with this news, especially being away from home and my own doctors. I didn’t know how long I had left and felt every minute was a blessing.
On my return home, the rollercoaster went full speed. I visited a geneticist who arranged for genetic testing to be done. The sample was sent to Ghent University where Dr. Loeys’ team carried out the testing. I have a mutation in TGFBR1 gene…after 28 years I finally had a diagnosis and reason of all the problems I’ve grown up with. I also contacted my surgeon, who I had been seeing and told him about this new probable diagnosis (before genetic results were back).
To cut this story a little, I had very successful aortic root repair and valve sparing surgery carried out on the 9th September 2008 in Dublin. The surgical team and hospital staff were incredible. Surprisingly this surgery was one of the easiest to recover from out of all that I can remember. I was perky on day 3 and home on day 8. I was delayed a little due to low blood pressure and oxygen levels but they eventually creeped up. I was back to work on a part-time basis 8 weeks post op.
In January (2009), at a follow up appointment after the heart surgery, I was informed I had an extremely severe case of dural ectasia, but at that time I was fortunate it wasn’t causing me too many noticeable issues. The following March (2009), I suffered a second spontaneous spinal fluid Leak. This time I was in a horizontal position for 10 days before being admitted to hospital for a blood patch. Two weeks later, I had full urinary retention and was catheterized for 9 weeks until one morning the catheter decided to come out on its own accord. I have managed without since. This retention has led to me try to find solutions to this problem, in particular surgery for the dural ectasia or tarlov cyst as it was being called. 
I also experience severe headaches which are in part due to my cerebral spinal fluid, which protects the brain and spine.  I need to stay de-stressed and drink fluids to keep the headaches at bay. 
Every year I have an MRI and echo cardiogram done. I have a hernia that I’m going to have repaired and I have an aneurysm in around my kidneys that they have to keep an eye on too. My hip started hurting a few months ago and I could barely walk for three to four weeks. It was a really intense pain, for no reason. The orthopaedic surgeon said nothing could be done.
That’s what I often hear, “Oh, it’s just you, it’s just the way you are.” That’s so disheartening.
Between everything, I have had to give up my job as a property manager in Dublin, something I had really loved. I moved home and I’m fortunate to have such great parents and to be able to live with them.  I hope that someday I will get back to work, but my problem is that I’m not reliable. A cold wipes me out. A pain wipes me out. My life isn’t the way I want it to be, it’s taken a different turn. But there are a lot of positives in it. Music keeps me going. I’m very involved with the local adult choir and I’ve made a lot of friends through that.
Considering differential diagnosis when assessing patients for heritable disorders of connective tissue is so important. In my case, having Loeys-Dietz syndrome recognised may have saved my life.
Loeys-Dietz syndrome is a multi-spectrum, genetic disorder of the body’s connective tissue. It has some features in common with Marfan syndrome, but it also has some important differences.
Aortic dilation can be a lot more aggressive in LDS than in MFS.  The surgical intervention stage for LDS is recommended at 4cm-4.5cm, whereas with Marfan syndrome it is 4.5cm-5cm.

Patients with LDS are also at risk from other aneurysms elsewhere on the arterial tree and therefore should be monitored very closely for such.

More information on Loey-Dietz syndrome can be found at:

To help the Hypermobility Syndromes Association continue our important work in this area, please Just Text ‘HMSA13’ followed by the amount to 70070 eg to donate £5 – “HMSA13 £5”

HMSA Physio Masterclass with Dr Jane Simmonds

Posted By FLICK MCLUCKIE, February 21, 2017


Woman with lumbar hyperlordosis exercising with physiotherapist

The HMSA works hard raising awareness of hypermobility syndromes among the general public, in our schools and workplaces, at conferences and along with our partner organisations help to refine the services that our patient community need to support them in managing their condition. Our online support resources and local groups are well known and our patient and family events incredibly popular,  but we aim to support and educate the patient community and the health professionals working with them.

Dr Jane Simmonds will be hosting our next  professionals only HMSA Physio Masterclass event on Friday the 31st March at The William Harvey Hospital, Postgrad Centre, Ashford, Kent, TN24 0LZ

It’s an excellent opportunity to learn more about effectively treating people with hypermobility syndromes,  not to mention that our events are almost always a lot of fun too!

This event is strictly for health care professionals, book your place now in our webshop,

If you haven#t already,  you may wish to make use of our Professional Membership scheme to keep up with the latest developments in the field and receive priority booking on future events.

Announcing our new Ambassador for…


HMSA Youth Patron, Hannah Ensor, is to become the HMSA’s Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder* Ambassador.

Hannah has worked closely with the Hypermobility Syndromes Association for a number of years and assists with raising the profile and awareness of Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder; the new name for hypermobility syndromes which are not covered by EDS, OI, Marfan, Stickler and PXE.

Hannah takes part in the HMSA’s self-management programmes and participates in our work with professional members as the ‘patient voice’. She is also well known for promoting the rights and needs of people with disabilities and is spending  a second year as one of Britain’s 100 most influential people with a disability.

Hannah regularly fundraises for the charity and has a hugely successful business which has enjoyed global recognition, called Stickman Communications. You can view Hannah’s work on her website,


“I’m honoured to have been offered this exciting opportunity and am looking forward to helping further raise the profile of hypermobility spectrum disorders* – particularly highlighting the fact that the whole spectrum of conditions can range from mild to severe depending on how each individual is affected.

Over the past few years, as a Patron of the HMSA, I have seen an increased number of people taking hypermobility syndromes of all types more seriously -and I’m excited by the prospect of being able to help build further on this important work, among the general public as well as in the medical and patient communities.”

*Please see our HMSA statement of position on the 2017 International Criteria for Ehlers-Danlos syndromes which explains how our use of terminology has been, is and will be changing.


HMSA Statement of Position on 2017 International Criteria for Ehlers-Danlos syndromes


This document was prepared on Monday 20th February following requests from our members. It aims to address issues, and ease anxieties raised by the early and partial release of documents from the International Consortium and the FAQ that followed.

When the full nosology documents are released on March 15th a clearer picture will be available to everyone, in the meantime we’ve provided as much information and explanation as we’re able to. The HMSA stands for and with ALL people with hypermobility syndromes and will continue to do so.

Please note, for a printer friendly version, click the green ‘printer friendly’ icon, bottom left.

Click here for a pdf version, many thanks to our visually impaired members for their patience while our volunteer team made the necessary conversions

The information provided by the HMSA should not take the place of advice and guidance from your own health-care providers. Material in this site is provided for educational and informational purposes only. Be sure to check with your doctor before making any changes in your treatment plan. Articles were last reviewed by our Medical Advisors as being correct and up to date on 5th June 2004.

Please be aware that information posted on the discussion boards is the opinion of the authors and has not necessarily been approved or endorsed by the medical advisors.