Did Elvis have EDS?

Did Elvis have EDS? –  Practical Pain Management – Forest Tennant, MD, DrPH – April 2017

From Letters to the Editor:

After I finished reading the article about Elvis Presley’s medical history by Forest Tennant, MD, DrPH,1 I wondered if he might have had Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS)?

The facts seem consistent with many of the medical issues common with this connective tissue mutation, including the stretched body parts, an inability to detox chemicals, self-medication, and an apparent need for greater pain relief.  

I also found it interesting that Dr. Tennant wrote about Howard Hughes’ medical case.2 I suspect that Mr. Hughes also suffered from EDS. He was intelligent and inventive, which are common traits found in people with this disease. The fact that Mr. Hughes survived a plane crash and was able to invent the modern hospital bed while he healed from broken ribs is truly amazing!

—Sonja D. Long

  PPM reply:

Dear Sonja,

Congratulations! You are the first person to contact me with the suspicion that Elvis Presley had EDS. His doctors not only did not suspect EDS, they never even considered it, as this genetic disease wasn’t regarded as a cause of severe pain and disability in Presley’s day.

However, his primary doctor, George Nichopoulos, MD, who personally opined to me that Presley probably had “some sort of genetic disease,” as he had multiple “strange,” seemingly unconnected medical problems.

In a retrospective review of the Presley case, I too suspect he had EDS.

The early age of onset of his multiple symptoms, pain patterns, pathologic conditions, and early death at age 39 are all compatible with a severe form of EDS.3

Beginning in his 20s, he experienced a wide variety of medical ailments, including respiratory, dental, headache, arthralgia, prostate, liver, spine, and gastrointestinal upsets.3,4 His medical symptoms involved various biologic systems and were migratory.

This type of come-and-go pattern is typical of EDS. In the last years of Presley’s life, he complained of pain all over.

There are other compelling reasons to believe Presley had EDS. He developed severe constipation and mega-colon in the last few years of his life, requiring medical treatment including enemas. Large intestine problems are relatively common in EDS patients.3,4

Some EDS patients develop a condition known as visceroptosis, which is a disconnection and prolapse of the bowel from its abdominal, connective tissue attachments.5 Presley may have had this condition.

His unusual and exaggerated physical gyrations on stage suggest hypermobility of multiple joints. Some photos show him on the stage, and almost touching his fans in the first row when he bent over. Movements on stage are hardly grist for a clinical diagnosis, but his physicality was a marvel to those of us who watched his live performances.

Also, Presley’s eye and vision problems were typical of EDS. Physically, his eye sockets were deep and he had lax eyelids, or ptosis. He developed bilateral glaucoma, which often necessitated wearing sunglasses.

As for Howard Hughes, he may well have had a variation of Marfan’s syndrome, which is often seen in EDS. He was tall and developed osteoporosis, scoliosis, collapsed vertebrae, and a hip fracture that required surgery. These conditions are common causes of pain in Marfan’s patients who live past middle age, as was the case with Hughes.

His physicians, as far as I know, never considered a genetic disease to explain his clinical state.

Presley and Hughes had something else in common. They both had multiple incidents of head trauma, leading to pituitary and autoimmune disorders as a result.

These problems, on top of a painful genetic disease, manifested in complex, multiple medical ailments that befuddled their doctors, as these pathologic, clinical states were as yet unknown.

Today, we are better able to analyze and diagnose these painful genetic conditions. It is amazing that both Presley and Hughes were so accomplished despite horrific illnesses, significant pain, and suffering.

9 thoughts on “Did Elvis have EDS?

  1. BirdLoverInMichigan

    I have long suspected George Michael had EDS, given the obvious hypermobility he displayed in videos such as “Monkey,”etc. It seems impossible Jim Carrey doesn’t have it, given his extreme flexibility and personality. Jane Leeves from Fraser seems another likely candidate, from my observation.

    Why won’t those who could do so much good for us SPEAK UP and save human lives? Is it really that much of a bother to admit you’re flawed when people are suffering from not being diagnosed or being believed even if they have been? And, oh yeah, people are dying from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, too.

    I’m baffled by the high profile EDSers deliberate and ongoing silence.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Emily Raven

      I’m betting they didn’t know they had it, got sick of getting the run around at doctors, and in cases like Elvis, did the best they could to self medicate. I’ve read alot about alot of these suspect cases, including David Bowie. Makes me sad that even the famous can’t seem to get actual diagnosises (until they pass away).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. BirdLoverInMichigan

        Yes but—
        I wrote George Michael in 2015 urging him to be tested. I sent it to his webmaster and also to a super fan who apparently had access to him that same year.

        As for Jim Carrey, I emailed my old acting teacher who now works for Jeff Daniels (Carrey’s co star) urging Carrey to be tested and champion our cause IF he had it, again that same year.

        On both of those efforts…silence…no response. But I tried my best given ours is a life or death matter.

        What’s it gonna take to find the right high profile person, unfortunately afflicted with EDS, who realizes this is a moral battle? He or she could help us beyond imagination get the justice we need and deserve.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Zyp Czyk Post author

          I’m impressed by the effort you made, and I’m disappointed at the result.

          Everyone is so darn busy maintaining their “productivity” that no one has time to make any efforts beyond their main interests. These celebrities are working so hard to be “famous” that joining an EDS awareness campaign would just distract them from the culturally approved endeavor of making more money.

          I’m so sad to see our American culture bend to the will of the financiers, with “making money” elevated to an almost sacred pursut and all other concerns are just piled in a distant heap and ignored.


          1. BirdLoverInMichigan

            Yes Zyp, especially since Jim Carrey has offered some pretty inspiring words at a few years back at a graduation ceremony where he urged people to go for it and risk anything.

            But talk is cheap, Mr. Bendable. I’m sorry you don’t want to be associated with those of us on life’s lowest rung. I thought somehow you were the perfect spokesperson given your willingness to try just about anything for a laugh. But the poignant struggles of the imploding apparently don’t translate well in your lofty realm of sight gags, the talk show circuit and whatever else makes your life pleasant.

            Ah, the art of acting. I think those of us with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome struggling to keep living with extraordinary pain and numbing fatigue each moment of our existence could teach you a thing or two about that, Mr. Carrey.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Bonnie Marshal

    Could his chronic constipation be due to his heavy drug dependency this will sometimes shut the bowels down.



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