What is Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB)?

Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) — "The Worst Disease You've Never Heard Of."

Epidermolysis Bullosa (ep-i-der-mo-lie-sis bu-low-suh), or EB, is a rare genetic connective tissue disorder that affects 1 out of every 20,000 births in the United States (approximately 200 children a year are born with EB). There is no treatment or cure. There are many genetic and symptomatic variations of EB, but all share the prominent symptom of extremely fragile skin that blisters and tears from minor friction or trauma. Internal organs and bodily systems can also be seriously affected by the disease. EB is always painful, often pervasive and debilitating, and is in some cases lethal before the age of 30. EB affects both genders and every racial and ethnic background equally. Daily wound care, pain management, and protective bandaging are the only options available for people with EB.

Photo of hands on EB patient

Those born with Epidermolysis Bullosa are often called “Butterfly Children” because as the analogy goes, their skin is as fragile as the wings of a butterfly. While many who live with milder forms of EB can lead long and productive lives, the list of manifestations and secondary complications in the more severe forms is lengthy and requires multiple interventions from a range of medical specialists. Those forms of EB result in disfigurement, disability, and in some cases early death.

Epidermolysis Bullosa can result from a genetic mutation in one of 18 genes. These mutations, or errors in the genetic code, do not allow the body to either produce an essential protein or produce a working form of the protein thus resulting in extremely fragile skin. EB can also be an autoimmune disease in which the body produces antibodies to the structural components of the skin. The severity of EB is generally dependent upon many factors including type, subtype, and inheritance pattern. EB has been categorized as encompassing 5 major types (Simplex, Junctional, Dystrophic, Kindler Syndrome, Aquisita) and 31 subtypes, therefore it is commonly referred to as a group of disorders. Other manifestations of EB include: anemia, cardiomyopathy, syndactyly (fusion of the fingers and toes), renal insufficiency, dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), malnourishment, cancer, constipation, osteoporosis, muscular dystrophy, and pyloric atresia.

Boy and Girl with EB

Today, three publically traded companies are planning EB clinical research trials, and academic research in the areas of cell, protein replacement, and gene therapy have advanced and are showing great progress. Each day, we are getting closer to finding a treatment and a cure. Until a cure is found, debra of America is dedicated to its mission of providing daily support to those who suffer from Epidermolysis Bullosa.