CBD as a Potential Treatment to Relieve Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system (CNS) ― that is, the brain and the spine ― and can, in many cases, incapacitate people. Symptoms can be as mild as numbness of the limbs and severe as paralysis and loss of vision. It is one of the most common neurological diseases among people between the ages of 20 and 30.
This condition is difficult to predict. Symptoms, progress and severity vary from person to person and over time. It is not contagious, or hereditary, and neither is it a deadly disease. It is not known with certainty what causes multiple sclerosis, but it occurs when the body’s defenses attack myelin, the adipose tissue that surrounds and protects the nerve cells of the CNS.
MS has no cure, although there are treatments that help accelerate recovery from attacks, change the direction of the disease and control specific symptoms.
Treatments vary to reduce symptoms. This condition generates many consequences. Degeneration of the nervous system causes loss of motor control, loss of vision, weakening of the muscular system, problems in the urinary system, chronic pain, sleep disorders and more. Cannabidiol (CBD) can play a vital role as a coadjuvant treatment.
More than 2.3 million people worldwide are affected by MS. Many of them are desperately looking for the best solution to their ailments. Most diagnosed cases are between ages 20 and 50 and about two-thirds are women. MS tends to affect more people who have grown up in cold climates.
What is Multiple Sclerosis?
MS is a chronic inflammatory, autoimmune and neurodegenerative disease of the central nervous system, which is the encephalon and spinal cord. The encephalon includes the brain, cerebellum and brainstem. MS is characterized by the appearance of lesions on nerve fibers and their protective layer, the myelin sheath, a substance composed of proteins and fats that facilitates transmission of nerve impulses.
When this condition develops, the immune system has an opposite effect to normal. Instead of protecting against diseases, it acts erroneously against myelin, leaving scars (sclerosis). Lesions occur at different times and multiple sites in the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms vary from one person to another depending on the affected areas.
Although many people share the same diagnosis, the disease and its evolution are different. This means that each person must receive different treatment, which makes mitigating pain effectively difficult.
MS unleashes episodes or outbreaks of neurological dysfunction that can last between three and four weeks and then recede slowly in about a month. These outbreaks do not always occur in the same way. There are several MS subtypes.
Types of Multiple Sclerosis
- Remittent-recurrent: It is the most frequent; eight or nine of 10 patients with MS present this evolutionary form. There are outbreaks of neurological dysfunction from which the patient may or may not recover entirely. Outbreaks recur every so often.
- Primary progressive: It affects one in 10 patients. There is a progressive deterioration from the beginning without presenting outbreaks throughout the disease.
- Progressive secondary: In this case, those who develop remittent-recurrent multiple sclerosis enter a phase of progressive worsening after 15 or 20 years of the disease onset.
- Progressive-recurrent: The least common form, it is t a constant progression of the disease from its beginning with some moments of outbreaks.
What Causes Multiple Sclerosis?
Unfortunately, the cause is unknown. MS is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks tissues, destroying myelin. Each year, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society sponsors more than 350 scholarships for research. It is not yet clear why MS affects some people and not others, but there are risk factors associated with its appearance:
- Age: MS can occur at any age, but is more common between the ages of 15 and 60.
- Sex: Women are almost twice as likely to develop MS.
- Family history: Those who have or have had parents or siblings with multiple sclerosis are at greater risk.
- Specific infections: Several viruses are associated with MS such as Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) that causes infectious mononucleosis.
- Race: Whites, mainly of European descent, are at higher risk of developing the disease.
- Climate: MS cases tend to be more frequent in countries with temperate climates such as Canada, New Zealand, the northern United States, southeastern Australia and Europe.
- Autoimmune diseases: People with thyroid disease, diabetes or inflammatory bowel disease are at greater risk.
- Smoking: Smokers are more likely to suffer a second attack after a first episode.
Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms
Symptoms vary from one person to another. They include:
- Numbness or weakness in one or more limbs.
- Partial or complete loss of vision, often with pain when moving the eyes.
- Extended double vision.
- Tingling and pain in different parts of the body.
- Lhermitte’s sign – sensations of electric shock when moving the neck, especially when leaning forward.
- Tremors, lack of coordination and loss of balance.
- Dizziness and fatigue.
Biggest MS complications are:
- Muscle stiffness or spasms.
- Paralysis, mostly in the legs.
- Bladder, bowel and sexual function problems.
- Mental changes such as memory failures or mood swings.
Interaction of Cannabinoids with Multiple Sclerosis
Cannabinoids are chemical substances that bind to the cannabinoid receptors of the brain and have immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory properties. They also enhance the progression of T cells of the immune system, which helps reduce the degree of immune destruction in patients with MS.
A study conducted at the University of Catania, Italy analyzed data of 1534 cases in centers dedicated to this condition and concluded that after the first month of treatment with medicinal cannabis spray, there was a 61.9 per cent decrease in cramps and night spasms, among other symptoms.
CBD and Multiple Sclerosis
Many studies have been encouraged by the properties of cannabinoid compounds from the cannabis plant, especially CBD because of its ability to activate and modulate the response of brain receptors present in the body’s endocannabinoid system. Clinical data argue that CBD has important effects on difficult-to-control conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, alcoholism, epilepsy, neurological disorders and even on antibiotic-resistant infections.
CBD has the potential to alleviate the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis such as neuropathic pain, spasms and muscle pain, and makes it easier to fall asleep.