It is estimated that almost 1,500,000 people may suffer from the immune system disorder known as lupus. When afflicted with this disorder, the immune system becomes over-active and begins to attack tissue throughout the body, confusing it with bacteria and other foreign invaders. The result is inflammation, pain, and damage to otherwise healthy organs and tissue. As more and more cases surface, finding safe and effective ways to treat this chronic illness is a top priority. One promising tool may be medical marijuana.
The Facts About Lupus
The most common type of lupus is SLE, or systemic lupus erythematosus. A 2005 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a prevalence of 161,000 individuals with diagnosable SLE and another 322,000 with probable SLE. Cutaneous lupus is another common form of this illness. Its symptoms include swollen glands and a scaly red rash on the cheeks and bridge of the nose.
It is unclear why some people develop this condition, but there appears to be both a genetic and environmental component. Lupus tends to run in families but is triggered by something in the environment, such as:
- Medicine - There are over 400 medications known to trigger lupus
It is more common in young women between the ages of 15 and 40. People with lupus suffer flare ups of the disease throughout their life and can go into remission for long periods.
The symptoms of lupus include:
- Body aches
- Focused pain in the hands and wrists
- Skin rashes that often have a characteristic butterfly shape
How Medical Marijuana May Help Calm Lupus
The treatment plan for lupus may include medical grade cannabis along with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry found that medical marijuana has an immuno-modulatory effect. In other words, it can help manage the inappropriate immune system responses seen in lupus and other immune system disorders.
The study looked at the effect of THC, a component in cannabis, on regulating immune system responses. The immune system has a localized cannabinoid receptor type 2, or CBD2, that endocannabinoids in medical marijuana influence. They increase the level of the anti-inflammatory protein interleukin-10 while decreasing a protein responsible for inflammation called interleukin-2. The combination of these two responses to cannabis may help ease the pain lupus suffers know all too well.