Updated on February 4, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Your body’s immune system protects you from infection and disease. However, when you have an autoimmune disease, it leads to your immune system attacking your body’s healthy cells by mistake. Autoimmune diseases may affect any part of your body, too. If this happens, you will be struggling with lots of symptoms. Luckily, aside from conventional treatments, you may also have the alternative of medical marijuana and autoimmune disease treatment.
Autoimmune diseases are conditions where your immune system attacks your body mistakenly. Normally, your immune system guards your body against germs like viruses and bacteria. It immediately begins sending out fighter cells to attack foreign invaders. And, typically, your immune system knows the difference between your healthy cells and foreign cells.
But, in the case of an autoimmune disease, your immune system doesn’t recognize the difference between foreign cells and your healthy cells. It mistakes different body parts such as your skin or joints as being “foreign” and releases proteins called autoantibodies to attack the healthy cells — thinking they’re outsiders. Certain autoimmune diseases go after just one organ. For example, diabetes goes after your pancreas. Other autoimmune diseases can attack your entire body — like lupus.
Nobody knows the exact cause of autoimmune diseases. What we do know, however, is they tend to be hereditary and run in families. Women have a higher risk of certain types of autoimmune diseases like Hispanic-American women, African-American women and Native American women.
Some autoimmune diseases produce similar symptoms, making it more difficult for your doctor to determine the disease you have. Receiving an official diagnosis can be stressful and frustrating. In many cases, the first symptoms are:
Inflammation is a classic sign of autoimmune disease and may cause:
Autoimmune diseases can also cause flare-ups where your symptoms subside and then return — often worse than before. The type of autoimmune disease you have will determine what your treatment protocol will be. In most scenarios, though, treating and reducing the inflammation is the important goal. Physicians often prescribe corticosteroids and other medications to reduce the immune response.
MS is a disease of your nervous system affecting your spinal cord and brain. It damages the material surrounding and protecting your nerve cells called the myelin sheath. The damage will eventually slow down or block messages between your body and brain, causing MS symptoms.
Lupus is a long-term inflammatory autoimmune condition. Doctors have classified four types of lupus.
RA is a type of arthritis that can cause swelling, stiffness, pain and loss of joint function. While it can affect any of your joints, it commonly affects your fingers and wrists. Women tend to get RA more than men, and it seems to occur more commonly in middle-aged and older adults. Young adults and children can still develop it, however. You could develop short-term RA where your symptoms come and go, or you can develop the severe type that may last your entire life.
An inflammatory autoimmune bowel condition, Crohn’s disease is characterized by persistent and severe gastrointestinal tract wall or lining inflammation. Doctors often refer to Crohn’s as regional enteritis, chronic ileitis or granulomatous colitis. The segment between your rectum and ileum is the most commonly affected part of your gastrointestinal tract. Even though Crohn’s disease can be hard to live with and challenging to manage, it typically isn’t life-threatening.
When Henry G. Kunkel started to study lupus and RA patients at Rockefeller Hospital in the 1950s, there wasn’t any known nature of the rheumatoid factor. And scientists questioned whether antibodies against the tissues of a person even existed.
Denise Jacobson and other individuals published “Epidemiology and Estimated Population Burden of Selected Autoimmune Diseases in the United States,” which detailed their first attempt in 1997 to determine exactly how many individuals had an autoimmune disease. This paper studied 24 diseases, and the number of individuals estimated to have an autoimmune disease in the U.S. was around 9 million.
Today, the different causes of autoimmune diseases are still greatly unknown.
Many autoimmune diseases share similar early symptoms such as:
Some diseases even come with unique signs and symptoms. For instance, Type 1 diabetes can cause symptoms like:
Irritable bowel syndrome can cause:
With RA, psoriasis or other types of autoimmune diseases like these, the symptoms can come and go. When symptoms occur, it’s called a “flare-up.” You’re in “remission” when they go away.
See your physician if you are experiencing any autoimmune disease symptoms. Depending on what autoimmune disease you have, you may need to see a separate specialist, such as:
When you have an autoimmune disease, it means your immune system is no longer protecting your body, but rather attacking it. And, along with the current autoimmune disease you have, you also have a more significant chance of developing another severe health complication like:
Research shows individuals with an autoimmune disease are six times more likely of developing a hospital-induced lung blood clot. MS and other autoimmune disease patients restricted to a fairly sedentary lifestyle or those in wheelchairs have a higher risk of developing a blood clot in their legs potentially traveling to their lungs. Blood-thinning medicine or compression socks can help reduce this risk.
Individuals with an autoimmune disease causing inflammation, such as scleroderma, lupus or RA, could end up with hardening of their arteries that may attack the muscles of their heart and result in heart disease.
To reduce your heart disease risk, you need to exercise as much as you can and eat a heart-healthy diet. Your doctor will also need to regularly monitor things like your:
Since your autoimmune disease already compromises your immune system, you are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer, lymphoma or other types of cancers. Doctors believe body inflammation may cause cells to multiply, increasing cell mutation risk.
The fatigue and chronic pain linked to an autoimmune disease can often cause the development of depression. If you start experiencing depression and/or anxiety, you need to consult with your physician so you can begin receiving treatment promptly to improve your symptoms and quality of life.
Estimates of autoimmune disease prevalence, as published in the Autoimmune Registry, are:
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences says:
There isn’t a single test doctors can use to diagnose most autoimmune conditions. Your physician will likely use a combination of symptom assessment and testing to diagnose you. The first test many physicians use when patients exhibit autoimmune disease symptoms is the antinuclear antibody test. If you take this test and it comes back positive, it likely indicates you have an autoimmune disease. However, the test won’t confirm which disease you have.
Doctors perform other testing to check for certain autoantibodies certain autoimmune diseases produce. Your physician may also perform testing to check for disease-related inflammation in your body.
Certain autoimmune diseases can be life-threatening, and many are debilitating and call for lifetime treatment. Treatments do exist to reduce the effects and symptoms of your autoimmune disease. But, because autoimmune diseases are rare, many individuals spend years before receiving an accurate diagnosis.
There’s no cure for autoimmune diseases. The primary autoimmune disease treatment is inflammation-reducing medications and medications to help to calm down an overactive immune response. Your doctor will also prescribe you treatment to relieve your symptoms. Medications often used to treat autoimmune diseases and their symptoms include:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like naproxen and ibuprofen. Side effects of NSAIDs may include:
Your doctor can prescribe you treatments to relieve your fatigue, swelling, skin rashes, pain and other symptoms.
Immune-suppressing medications: Your doctor may also prescribe you immunosuppressant drugs, like antirejection medicines, to prevent or inhibit immune system activity. Increased risk of infection is the most significant side effect of these types of medications. Other less significant side effects may include:
Once your body starts adjusting to the immunosuppressant medications, these side effects will usually subside.
Maintain a physically fit lifestyle with regular exercise and eat a healthy diet regularly as part of your treatment program.
Many people mistakenly think medical marijuana only distracts them from their severe condition. However, the herb has compounds to engage directly with immune cells and create valuable and real body changes. This supports why cannabis is effective in things like:
How is all this possible? Researchers have found it all has to do with your endocannabinoid system.
The herb not only relieves pain and other uncomfortable autoimmune disease symptoms, it also shows huge potential in being an effective immunomodulator, a chemical agent modifying immune system functioning or immune response.
The Journal of Biological Chemistry published a recent study exploring how THC influences microRNAs.
The microRNAs — also called miRNAs — are single-stranded, small, non-coding RNAs which play an important role in the regulation of gene expression. Authors of the study state cannabis’ ability to change miRNA expression just might be the answer to successfully treating some autoimmune diseases, including Type 1 diabetes, MS and arthritis.
The University’s School of Medicine’s researchers injected THC into mice and studied their RNA. There were 609 tested miRNAs. Out of these, the researchers discovered THC greatly altered 12 of them.
There’s already promise in marijuana for autoimmune disease. A study by a Hebrew university showed laboratory mice treated with CBD experienced a 50 percent improvement in joint health, indicating there’s promise in easing RA symptoms.
Until research can catch up to reality and provide a cure for autoimmune disorders, medical marijuana is a reasonable substitute, especially given some of these end in death. Patients who cannot afford in-home care with attending nurses toward the end of MS, MD or ALS can afford medical marijuana.
Furthermore, they cannot overdose on it and commit suicide, so there’s no fear of legal retribution from family and friends of the suffering loved one. Friends and family can help administer medical marijuana toward the end of life to ensure comfort and peace. Check with local laws regarding living wills and the use of medical marijuana before proceeding.
You can find additional research, news and information on autoimmune disorders and diseases on the web through the links on MarijuanaDoctors.com. For states where medical marijuana has not yet been legalized, the website regularly posts news of upcoming legislative events involving voting for or against legalizing it.
When they do, MarijuanaDoctors.com pulls those news bits and posts them as well, so people living in those states who are struggling daily with an autoimmune disorder can know how close to comfort they are.
Some of the symptoms medical marijuana for autoimmune disease can help treat include:
The symptoms of these disorders leave the patients at any level of fatigue, pain in the muscles or other areas of the body, fevers and uncontrollable tics or muscle movements or lack thereof, depending on the disease.
Only one drug at the moment is showing effective in slowing the advancement of ALS, and doctors are prescribing a host of medications for all other autoimmune disorders that can bring some relief or retard the downward spiral of many others. Research is key, but it can’t move fast enough to unlock the genetic codes to stop, prevent or cure the increase in diagnosed cases every year. In the meantime, the patients often need substantial pain relief and support for depression and fatigue.
These patients can turn to medical marijuana. Its two main strains are bred and crossbred to give plants the ability to ease chronic pain, allow for sleep or perk people up to help with the fatigue. A hybrid can do some of both, depending how much of one strain or another is in its genes. You may choose the strain that perks you up and helps with fatigue if you have depression, for example.
Pot dispensaries are legal growers in states that have legalized marijuana for medical use, and those with a prescription card can request a specific kind of medical marijuana from the pot dispensary they frequent most. Initially, patients with autoimmune disorders who get a prescription for medical marijuana might have to test a couple of kinds out first to find the one that makes them feel significantly better. The prescribing doctor should have enough knowledge on the various cross-strains to make a few suggestions, as well as where in the area the patient might find them.
Medical cannabis for autoimmune disease strains helps tackle the symptoms of your autoimmune disease. While symptoms can vary depending on what type of autoimmune disease you have, the most common are mentioned a couple of times above. So, you’ll want to look for strains to tackle things like:
And, as you’ve probably read in many of our other articles, cannabis and autoimmune disease therapy can tackle all these and more.
Here are some popular cannabis for autoimmune disease strains to help fight all these symptoms:
With the quickly growing medical weed movement, people are coming up with new cannabis delivery methods all the time. Some common methods include:
MarijuanaDoctors.com is a trusted gateway for individuals looking for marijuana and autoimmune disease treatment, as well as treatment for many other medical conditions qualifying for medical pot in states legalizing the herb.
Marijuana Doctors provides patients transparency and visibility in searching and choosing a qualified, licensed marijuana doctor. Just set an appointment to receive a medical cannabis evaluation. You can also search for medical weed dispensaries in your area to find your favorite cannabis strains and products easily and quickly.
We’ve assisted countless patients in finally finding true relief from their medical conditions and symptoms. Visit our extensive site to book your consultation and allow us to help you get started in your therapeutic medical cannabis therapy as soon as possible.