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32 Gorgeous Tattoos Inspired by Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

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Article updated August 15, 2019.

If you or a loved one struggle daily with a chronic health condition, sometimes a visual symbol of this battle can serve as a reminder to keep persevering as well as a way to raise awareness. Many of those with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome have gotten meaningful tattoos to spread the word about the rare condition and show their support for EDS zebras everywhere.

• What is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?
• What Are Common Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Symptoms?

We wanted to see some of the creative designs those with EDS have chosen to commemorate their battles, so in partnership with the Ehlers-Danlos Society, we asked their community as well as our Mighty community to share photos of their tattoos that were inspired by Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (check with your doctor about any potential side effects of getting tattooed).

Here’s what the communities shared with us:

1. “This is my tattoo for my beautiful daughter Bella. She picked the colors herself. Since her diagnosis, she has met every painful day, dislocation, subluxation, surgery, hospitalization, and challenge with dignity, tenacity and courage far beyond her 9 years of age. She now has a feeding tube placed and is attending regular physical therapy. She still has bad days, and she is aware of the reality that she always will for the rest of her life, and we deal with these bad days together as a family, and we will live every good day we have to the fullest. Now, she is anxiously awaiting her Make a Wish trip to Disney in a few months.”

tattoo of zebra

2. “After my first appointment with a specialist, I was incredibly emotional. Putting a name to all the struggles I had faced in my life was a huge deal. My parents and I were emotionally exhausted. I have wanted this tattoo for years. It says ‘child of life’ in Hebrew. It reminds me every day to take joy in my life and that I was born to shine bright. Nothing can dim that, not even EDS.”

tattoo of hebrew words meaning 'child of life'

3. “My son was 4 when diagnosed; we had no idea EDS even existed. This tattoo is the awareness ribbon fallen apart, much like the EDS collagen. The top forms an ‘S’ (both my sons’ names start with ‘S’). Stars in zebra with their favorite colors. I have a purple star but it is empty as I do not have EDS. Its been a great way to spread awareness.”

zebra ribbon tattoo

4. “Reminds me to be strong and have faith! Love the serenity prayer. It’s helped get me through day to day when I’m in pain!”

tattoo with words 'courage, faith, wisdom and serenity'

5. “In February I was diagnosed. The struggle is every day. That’s why I need to be brave.”

tattoo of heart with zebra pattern that says 'be brave'

6. “This is Zed the zebra. Us EDS’ers often get told we are zebras because doctors are told when they hear hoofbeats think horses, not zebras. I also chose this ‘wobbly’ design because we are quite wobbly!”

zebra tattoo

7. “I think this one is pretty self-explanatory… But I will never let EDS beat me. I’ll keep punching back!”

tattoo of cartoon zebra hitting a punching bag

8. “I got my tattoo for my 21st birthday. Turning 21 meant I have been in constant pain for over half of my life. My tattoo is there to remind me I’m stronger because of my pain and I can make it through any bad day because I have made it through them before.”

tattoo that says 'with pain comes strength'

9. “Coverup from a surgery scar (well, two surgeries). I think the zebra speaks for itself!”

zebra tattoo covering scar

10. “I wanted to take control of my body. Because my husband works and we don’t have kids, I’m alone a lot. When I’m in pain, or feeling sick, I want my husband. Because he can’t always be here, I got the last stanza of an ee cummings poem, our poem (read at our wedding), as a touchstone. Because I carry his heart. I carry it in my heart.”

tattoo of ee cummings quote

11. “Here’s mine. I got it to represent the struggle I and other patients have to get diagnosed after having my symptoms dismissed for a decade.”

tattoo of zebra pattern

12. “I had nine operations and wanted to take back control over my body. This is my biggest piece and it’s not finished, but it represents me not letting EDS dominate my body.”

tattoo of landscape with trees and sunset on a woman's back

13. “When I attend my medical appointments and feel like I am not being heard and doctors are skirting around my EDS, I look to my arm to remind myself I am a zebra with integrity and have a voice. My voice deserves to be heard. When this does not resonate I am confident to make the decision to look for a care provider who will work with me and truly want to understand.”

tattoo of zebra with the word 'integrity'

14. “‘Keep moving forward.’ My mom liked this one and reminded me of it constantly after my colectomy (I have vEDS).”

tattoo that says 'keep moving forward'

15. “The top one is an acronym – I got it before I was diagnosed. I was going through so many health issues with no answers. I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason, so I got this acronym to remind me when I felt my worst. EHFAR = Everything Happens For A Reason. Once I was diagnosed with hEDS, I got this butterfly tattoo wrapped in the EDS ribbon. The butterfly is a reminder of how short life is and that we need to live it to the best of our abilities.”

tattoo with acronym 'EHFAR' with butterfly and zebra awareness ribbon

16. “I have a medic alert tattoo. It comforts me to know if I become unable to speak, my tattoo can speak for me. And I got the lily with it to remind me there is more to me than being sick.”

flower medic alert tattoo that says 'ehlers-danlos and dysautonomia'

17. “Guess it also speaks for itself! We’re all zebra warriors! And right next to it is tape for my wrist.”

zebra warrior tattoo

18. “It’s to do with the heart condition I have which is caused by EDS and the journey it has taken me on. Due to an amazing charity, Flying Scholarships for Disabled People, I will be learning to fly at the end of this month.”

heartbeat tattoo with airplane

19. “A reminder that tomorrow is another day and has the potential to be better than today.”

calvin and hobbes tattoo that says 'one day at a time'

20. “I was recently diagnosed. The tattoo artist said, ‘You want it upside down?’ I told him this is for me, not for anyone else. I chose this design because the zebra, I call her Sarah, looks fierce, and whenever I feel weak, I just look at her to remind me of how strong I really am.”

zebra tattoo

21. “Because of my EDS diagnosis I started to live way outside my comfort zone. Living outside that zone has given me so many so more experiences than if I was healthy.”

tattoo that says 'life begins outside your comfort zone'

22. “Mine are pink water lilies. I got mine before my diagnosis, but water lilies close every night and open back up in the morning. Every day the lily opens to start a new day. I’m still here. I’m still pushing on. I’ve got my diagnosis. I am not a hypochondriac. I suffer, and I love my lilies.”

pink water lily tattoo

23. “My friends and family often call me T-rex because my arms are short and I can never reach anything… So with the help of pickers or grabbers I’m unstoppable. I have vEDS.”

tattoo of t-rex holding walkers with text 'unstoppable'

24. “A bouquet of spoons for the spoon theory, but it’s due to my chronic pain from EDS.”

bouquet of spoons tattoo

25. “This is a tattoo on my side. I got it before I knew I had EDS, but I have faced various health challenges all my life. It is a quote from Shakespeare: ‘My drops of tears I’ll turn to sparks of fire.’ (Henry VIII, Act II scene iv). I used to do a lot of acting in Shakespeare plays and this inspires me to turn the horrible things life has given me into fuel for my strength and compassion for others.”

tattoo of shakespeare quote

26. “The quote is from a saying: ‘You wake up each morning to fight the same demons that left you so tired the night before, and that, my love, is bravery.’ And the zebra ribbon is in the little girl’s hair. The monster for us all I’m sure is EDS.”

little girl with ehlers-danlos awareness ribbon in her hair talking to demon

27. “My blonde girl tattoo represents me. I placed her there below my knee because that is where my bone was fractured. The crack in her face represents the crack that was in my bone. Three of the ligaments in my knee had torn, my ACL completely ruptured, and without the support of those ligaments my leg bones smashed into each other, cracking my tibia plateau like an egg with the crack extending down my tibia. I wasn’t able to walk for months. Ligament and tendon tears/ruptures are a common complication of vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Below my girl is a zebra print awareness ribbon. The zebra print awareness ribbon represents rare diseases. vEDS is a rare disease with no cure or treatment.”

tattoo of girl with cracked face and ehlers-danlos ribbon

28. “‘I will always land on my feet.’ My journey with many things, including Ehlers-Danlos, has not been easy but I’ve always been OK. I have an emotional support cat for my depression that is triggered by my EDS and of course, I am flexible, much like a cat.”

cat landing on its feet tattoo

29. “I have chronic epicondylitis in both elbows (due to EDS) that has really affected my daily functionality. But I like to see humor in everything, so I make myself laugh every day when I look at my ‘out of order’ post-it note tattoo just above my left elbow.”

out of order tattoo

30. “I got the death’s head moth with a zebra print body for EDS. It also has my own ECG heartbeat coming out of each side. I got it because EDS is like being half a person, half dead and half alive. Some days I don’t feel human at all, more like a zombie, so I wanted the moth with the symbol of death on its back to show how it feels.”

tattoo of a moth with a skull at the center

31. “It’s from the Lion King Broadway soundtrack. The top line is in Swahili, the bottom is mirrored: ‘There’s no mountain too great, hear the words and have faith.’ I have vEDS.”

quote from lion king soundtrack tattoo

32. “I got a watercolor portrait of a zebra on my leg for EDS. Obviously the zebra is the mascot for EDS, but [I got] the watercolor form to show that not everything is distinct, and a lot of things flow into one another.”

watercolor zebra tattoo

Originally published: August 8, 2017
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