Understanding Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a condition that affects the central nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. The disease can cause various symptoms, such as problems with vision, movement, sensation, or balance, and ranges from mild to severe disability. In the UK, over 130,000 people are currently living with MS, with approximately 7,000 new diagnoses each year.
MS is an autoimmune condition where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy parts of the body. In MS, the immune system targets the myelin sheath – a protective layer around nerve fibres in the central nervous system. As a result, the myelin sheath becomes damaged, and the nerves can also suffer damage, resulting in slower or disrupted nerve signalling. Over time, MS can cause permanent damage and deterioration of nerves. The causes of MS are still unclear, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms
Depending on the amount of nerve damage, and the person suffering from MS, some symptoms may include:
- Blurred or double vision, partial or complete loss of vision
- Numbness, tingling, or weakness
- Muscle stiffness, spasms, and spasticity
- Balance and coordination issues
- Difficulty walking
- Neuropathic and musculoskeletal pain
- Bladder and bowel problems
- Cognitive difficulties with thinking, learning, and planning
- Mental health issues
- Speech and swallowing difficulties
- Sexual dysfunction
While there is no known cure for MS, there are various treatment options that can alleviate the symptoms and manage the condition. Steroid treatment is often used to hasten recovery following a relapse, but it does not prevent future relapses or slow down the progression of the disease. Due to potential side-effects like osteoporosis, weight gain, and diabetes, steroids are only administered for a short period of time. Physiotherapy can help improve muscle spasms and spasticity, while medications like baclofen, gabapentin, tizanidine, and diazepam can also help relax muscles. However, these drugs can come with side-effects like dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, and weakness. Patients who do not respond well to these medications may be offered a 4-week trial of nabiximols.
CBD Benefits for Multiple Sclerosis
CBD has the ability to bind with receptors in the central nervous system which can alleviate inflammation and enhance the immune response of the brain. A survey conducted by the MS Society in 2014 revealed that one in five people suffering from MS use cannabis to ease their symptoms, primarily muscle spasticity and pain. A 2018 review discovered that CBD can reduce fatigue, pain, inflammation, depression, and spasticity in people with MS, resulting in overall improvement in mobility. CBD increases the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines and suppresses pro-inflammatory cytokines. Since the majority of the body’s cannabinoid receptors are situated in the central nervous system, CBD shows great promise as a treatment for MS.
Savitex: a Drug for MS Patients
Sativex, also known as nabiximols, is a cannabis-based drug that is licensed in the UK to alleviate muscle spasticity in MS patients who have not responded well to other treatments. It is a mouth spray that contains equal amounts of THC and CBD and is licensed for moderate to severe spasticity. Although it can be prescribed by a doctor, it is challenging to obtain without paying for a private prescription since it is not approved to be routinely commissioned on the NHS.
Research has shown that Sativex is a safe and effective way to reduce muscle spasticity in MS patients. According to the MS Society, around 7 in 10 users of Sativex see their spasticity decrease by at least 20%. Although it is only licensed to treat muscle spasticity, people have reported that it can help alleviate other symptoms such as:
- Neuropathic and musculoskeletal pain
- Mobility issues
- Bladder problems and frequent urination
- Difficulty sleeping
- Mental health issues such as emotional outbursts, anxiety, and depression
A 2014 study involving 276 patients with treatment-resistant MS found that after one month of treatment, Sativex provided relief to 74.6% of patients. It was concluded that Sativex is an effective and well-tolerated treatment for resistant MS. Although other studies have suggested that cannabinoids are useful in treating MS symptoms, further research is necessary to determine how they relieve muscle spasticity.
DISCLAIMER: This content is intended solely for informational purposes and does not constitute healthcare advice. All the information is generalised and is obtained from referenced third parties. HempWell does not offer medical advice, and its CBD products are sold as food supplements. Please contact a healthcare professional if you have any concerns about taking CBD.