Breaking Down What Halsey’s Diagnoses Really Mean, According to Doctors

After Halsey revealed that they'd been diagnosed with multiple diseases and health conditions, a doctor offered more insight on the singer's ailments.

By Corinne Heller, Alex Ross May 16, 2022 5:15 PMTags
Watch: Halsey Reveals Multiple Diagnoses After Hospitalizations

Halsey is on the road to better health after finally finding out why they haven't felt well for years.

Last week, the singer wrote on Instagram that they were diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), Sjögren's syndrome, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia syndrome (POTS) and Mast-Cell Activation syndrome (MCAS).

The singer later said, "I've been sick. For a long time," adding, "I went to doctors for 8 years. Trying to figure out what was wrong with me." Halsey told fans that they're "on a treatment plan right now" while they rehearse for their upcoming Love and Power Tour.

Halsey said they've been "really, really, really, sick" since they got pregnant and then gave birth to now-9-month-old baby Ender, their son with boyfriend Alev Aydin. "I was hospitalized for anaphylaxis a few times," the star said, "and I had some other stuff going on."

Halsey, who has been very open about their endometriosis battle, did not detail their other symptoms. E! News spoke to two doctors who have not treated the singer to get more insight into the star's conditions, all of which are incurable.

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What is Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, or EDS?

EDS is a group of disorders that affect connective tissues supporting the skin, bones and blood vessels, according to the National Library of Medicine. "The most common thing that we tend to think of is joint dislocations or subluxations," Dr. Alissa Zingman, a Musculoskeletal Preventive Medicine physician and co-founder of the Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Research Foundation, told E! News.

She added, "But it may not be so obvious as that, so it could be more like back pain at a young age, neck pain, headaches. Also, it has a big effect on the gastrointestinal tract in a lot of people, so they may have a lot of cramping, abdominal pain." Dr. Zingman herself suffers from the disorder, as well as POTS and MCAS. 

How is EDS treated?

"A patient may be going to the gastroenterologist for their GI symptoms," Zingman told E! News. "They may go to an orthopedic surgeon for their neck and shoulders, and a neurosurgeon for their low back, like pain shooting down their leg. They may go to psychiatrists for difficulty paying attention. They may be going to a neurologist for their headaches."

Dr. Alina Sharinn (formerly Rabinovich), a New York neurologist, said, "Important for a neurologist like myself are vascular issues, so [patients] can develop arterial aneurysms, which is an outpouching of the vessel that can rupture and bleed, or they can develop arterial dissection, which is a rupture inside the wall of the vessel that creates extra lumen and that lumen can cause a blockage of that particular vessel or it can cause plaque formation that can go up and cause a stroke and has other risks." 

According to the National Cancer Institute, lumen is the "cavity or channel within a tube or tubular organ such as a blood vessel or the intestine."

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What is Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia syndrome, or POTS?

Zingman said EDS can also affect connective tissue in the walls of a person's intestines or the valves of our hearts.

"Sometimes blood can even kind of sneak backwards in the wrong direction [in the heart]," the doctor told E! news. 'That's called regurgitation, which can make the heart less efficient. The most common manifestation of this is POTS."

Zingman continued, "Sometimes the blood will visibly pool in [patients'] legs and they will stand up, they will get dizzy, they will get nauseous, sometimes they will black out, their vision will go black."

How is POTS treated?

Certain medications can relieve low blood volume or regulate circulatory problems that could be causing the disorder, while adding extra salt to the diet and drinking more water can also be effective, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

What is Mast-Cell Activation syndrome, or MCAS?

MCAS is a condition in which the patient experiences repeated episodes of the symptoms of anaphylaxis, or other allergic reactions such as hives or low blood pressure, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

In recent years, researchers have found an association between MCAS, EDS and POTS. Zingman said, "Some people call it the triad."

How is MCAS treated?

The condition is treated in a similar way that allergic reactions are treated. In the case of anaphylaxis, epinephrine is given. In milder cases, antihistamines or other drugs are administered, according to the AAAAI says.

What is Sjogren's syndrome?

This is an autoimmune disorder that causes dryness of the mouth, eyes and skin, and in some cases, joint pain or inflammation, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. According to Zingman, it is unrelated to the previous three health conditions. However, she added, people who suffer from EDS, which is inherited, are about three to four times more likely to also have Sjögren's or another rheumatologic inflammatory condition, which are acquired.

How is Sjögren's treated?

Using eye drops, sucking on sugar-free candy or drinking water can alleviate symptoms, per Johns Hopkins. Pain medication or steroids can help in more severe cases.

For patients diagnosed with multiple conditions, symptoms are not just physiological. "I think something that's really underappreciated is the mental fatigue of having to constantly account for this unpredictability," Zingman said. "I think that the social and emotional aspect of it is also something where people really deserve a tremendous amount of counseling and support."