Joint hypermobility is a rarely recognised aetiology for focal or diffuse musculoskeletal symptoms. To assess the occurrence and importance of joint hypermobility in adult patients referred to a rheumatologist, we prospectively evaluated 130 consecutive new patients for joint hypermobility. Twenty women (15%) had joint hypermobility at three or more locations (greater than or equal to 5 points on a 9 point scale). Most patients with joint hypermobility had common musculoskeletal problems as the reason for referral. Two patients referred with a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis were correctly reassigned a diagnosis of hypermobility syndrome. Three patients with systemic lupus erythematosus had diffuse joint hypermobility. There was a statistically significant association between diffuse joint hypermobility and osteoarthritis. Most patients (65%) had first degree family members with a history of joint hypermobility. These results show that joint hypermobility is common, familial, found in association with common rheumatic disorders, and statistically associated with osteoarthritis. The findings support the hypothesis that joint hypermobility predisposes to musculoskeletal disorders, especially osteoarthritis.
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