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Pruritus

marijuana for pruritus

Medical Marijuana and Pruritus

Many skin conditions can cause pruritus, including dry skin, eczema, and psoriasis. Pruritus can also be painful and is one of the most common complaints patients relay to their primary care physicians and dermatologists. Its symptoms can be relentless when severe and persistent, impacting your sleep and quality of life.

The good news is, medical marijuana for pruritus can help relieve not only the itching and pain, but some other symptoms, even depression, and anxiety.

What Is Pruritus?

Pruritus, also known as itchy skin, is an irritating, uncomfortable sensation causing you to want to scratch. Dry skin is a culprit of pruritus and tends to worsen with age. But, as mentioned, there are many different causes for itchy skin and the cause determines the severity of how itchy your skin can become.

what is pruritus

Depending on the cause, your itchy skin could appear normal, or you could have rough or red patches on your skin or blisters or bumps. The more you scratch, the more chances your skin can become inflamed, bleed or infected.

While anyone can develop pruritus, certain groups of individuals are more vulnerable to the condition, including:

  • People with diabetes
  • People with seasonal allergies, eczema, and asthma
  • Pregnant women
  • People with certain types of cancer or HIV/AIDS
  • Elderly adults

There are several types of generalized pruritus:

  1. Pruritus in internal diseases
  2. Pruritus of various skin conditions where mediators act on the free nerve endings
  3. Idiopathic pruritus, where’s there’s no identified cause

Symptoms of Pruritus

Your itchy skin may occur in small areas like on a leg or arm, or it can affect your entire body. It can develop with no other noticeable skin changes, or it can appear with:

  • Spots, bumps or blisters
  • Redness
  • Scaly or leathery skin texture
  • Redness

The itching can be intense and last a long time. As you scratch or rub the area, it becomes itchier. And the itchier it becomes, the more you scratch. It can be difficult to break this cycle of itching and scratching, but you risk skin damage and infection by continuing to scratch.

Pruritus can be generalized or localized and can come on as an acute or chronic problem. Your itching can last over six weeks, thereby becoming chronic pruritus. The itching you experience can be uncontrollable and incapacitating. It can also become a diagnostic and therapeutic challenge.

Causes of Pruritus

While there’s no one mechanism to explain all pruritus causes, many health conditions can cause itching of the skin. Some common causes include:

  • Psoriasis, eczema, dry skin and other skin conditions
  • Allergic reactions to insect bites, food, medicines, and pollen
  • Pregnancy
  • Irritating cosmetics, chemicals, and other substances
  • Kidney, liver or thyroid diseases
  • Parasites like scabies, pinworms or body and head lice
  • Certain cancers or treatments for cancer
  • Shingles, diabetes or other diseases that affect your nervous system

Histamine, which mast cells release in individuals with allergic reactions like urticaria, classically links with pruritus. But, except for allergic conditions, histamine is just one of a few chemical mediators of itch.

Besides, opioids cause pruritus in up to 90 percent of individuals receiving intraspinal narcotic injections.

Physical Effects of Pruritus

Pruritus can impact the quality of your life. Prolonged scratching and itching might increase itch intensity, potentially leading to:

  • Infection
  • Skin injury
  • Scarring

In many cases, like that with eczema, you shouldn’t scratch your skin no matter how itchy it is because it can make it worse, cause you to bleed and even lead to infection.

Mental Effects of Pruritus

Pruritus is often a distressing symptom, and, when chronic, can profoundly impact a person’s mental well-being. In a study published in Clinics in Dermatology, far more individuals with idiopathic generalized pruritus were shown to have depressive symptoms compared with controls.

pruritus effects

Atopic dermatitis patients can have a substantially higher level of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. Researchers found an increased severity of the disease could predict depression and stress a day later.

Numerous studies of different diseases have shown the negative effect of pruritus on an individual’s psychology and quality of life. The intensity of itch was shown to negatively correlate with quality of life, coping behavior and sleep in children with atopic dermatitis.

In psoriasis patients, the intensity of itching correlated with:

  • Feelings of stigmatization
  • Lower quality of life
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Stress

In another study on psoriasis patients, pruritus was shown to impact patients’:

  • Mood — 60 percent
  • Sleep — 35 percent
  • Sexual desire — 21 percent
  • Appetite — 11 percent

Researchers also found pruritus links with worse mental health and physical functioning in individuals with systemic sclerosis.

Pruritus History

For a while now, epidemiological problems seemed to have played only a small role within dermatology. One reason could be dermatology is a relatively young field, having advanced around 1850 as a distinct specialty.

Only a few years ago, the term dermatoepidemiology came about and is now closely associated with principles of evidence-based medicine. Its significance over time has increased in acknowledgment of the fact many skin disorders aren’t just highly prevalent —like eczema and psoriasis — but also on the rise, to where it’s said to have thrived over the past 10 years.

Current Treatments Available for Pruritus and Their Side Effects

Identifying the cause of pruritus and treating any underlying skin conditions is the first step in eliminating pruritus. After identifying and treating an underlying condition, most treatments for pruritus include home remedies and medication additions or changes.

1. Home Remedies

Taking care of your skin is the best way to prevent itching. To protect your skin:

  • Use skin lotions and creams that prevent dryness and moisturize your skin.
  • Use mild bath soap that’s not irritating to your skin.
  • Use sunscreen daily to prevent sunburn and skin damage.
  • Take showers or baths in warm water — not hot.
  • Avoid certain fabrics like synthetics and wool that may make your skin itchy. Switch to cotton bedsheets and clothing.
  • Turn your home’s thermostat down and use a humidifier, since dry, warm air can dry out skin.
  • Place some ice or a cool washcloth over the itchy area to relieve itching rather than scratching.

2. Medications

If doctors suspect a drug reaction, switching to a different drug could help reduce the itching. But, many medication reactions also have an accompanying rash along with the itching.

Your doctor might also give you a prescription for antihistamines or topical steroids to treat pruritus. However, many medications come with side effects, and antihistamines and topical steroids are no different.

Side effects of antihistamines may include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Difficulty urinating, or inability to urinate
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Moodiness or restlessness

Side effects of topical steroids may include:

  • Stretch marks in the groin or armpits
  • Skin thinning
  • Enlarged blood vessels
  • Easy tearing or bruising of the skin

How Medical Marijuana Treats Pruritus

There’s no cure for psoriasis as of yet, but medical cannabis for pruritus can play an important role in managing your symptoms in the following ways:

medical marijuana treatments

1. Reduce Inflammation and Pain

Your endocannabinoid system in your body has receptors that bind with marijuana’s cannabinoids. The two primary receptors are:

  • CB1 receptor — regulates pain perception when bound with cannabinoids
  • CB2 receptor — acts as an anti-inflammatory and immune booster when bound with cannabinoids

Inflammation

Cannabinoids have anti-inflammatory properties, making them potentially useful in treating a wide range of skin problems, according to a study the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology published. The study concludes cannabinoid-infused pharmaceuticals might be effective against conditions like:

  • Atopic and contact dermatitis
  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema

In one study, eight of 21 patients who used a cannabinoid cream two times a day for three weeks eliminated severe pruritus. The medication might have decreased the dry skin likely causing the itch.

Researchers believe the main driver in cannabinoid treatments is their anti-inflammatory properties. In studies the researchers reviewed, they found THC helped reduce inflammation and swelling in mice.

Some strains for inflammation to try are:

  • Bubblegum Kush (Indica)
  • Harlequin (Sativa)
  • Blueberry Haze (hybrid)

There are many other strains for inflammation, but these in particular help with inflammation due to skin disorders.

Pain

Psoriasis is a condition that can cause pruritus, along with a lot of discomfort and pain. It is an autoimmune disorder making skin cells multiply more quickly than normal, which causes immature skin cells called keratinocytes to come up to the surface before fully developing. This leads to patches of painful, itchy skin. It’s believed medical pot helps individuals with psoriasis, and therefore pruritus, manage their symptoms in a few ways:

  1. It could slow down skin cell production.
  2. It can help minimize discomfort and pain during a flare-up.
  3. It can suppress the immune system.

You can try these strains for relieving pain:

  • Green Crack (Sativa)
  • ACDC (hybrid)
  • God’s Gift (Indica)

There are also medical marijuana and pruritus strains that work for both inflammation and pain. As a bonus, they also help with other symptoms like depression and insomnia.

  • Cannatonic (hybrid): Treats inflammation, along with anxiety and depression
  • Purple Urkle (Indica): Treats pain and inflammation, and also insomnia and depression
  • God Bud (Indica): Treats inflammation, pain, stress, depression and insomnia

2. Relieve Itching

If you’re allergic to cannabis, it can cause itchiness. However, if you’re not allergic to marijuana, it can have the opposite effect for conditions causing intense itchiness and pain, like psoriasis.

Marijuana for itchiness works on various fronts to decrease the hyper-proliferation of cells, minimizing the patches of irritated, dry skin and thereby reducing the itch.

Anti-itch strains to try are:

  • Permafrost (hybrid)
  • Blackberry Kush (Indica)
  • Blueberry (Indica)

Hempseed oil, derived from cannabis sativus, is helpful for treating eczema, another skin condition that causes pruritus. Hempseed oil also helps with other skin conditions such as:

  • Dermatitis
  • Psoriasis
  • Seborrheic dermatitis, or cradle cap
  • Lichen planus
  • Varicose eczema
  • Acne rosacea

All of these can cause pruritus or itchy skin.

3. Strengthens Skin

Hempseed oil helps to strengthen the skin, making it better able to resist viral, bacterial and fungal infections.

hemp cbd oil

Hempseed strains grown and used to produce hempseed oil are low in resin content already, and after they’ve been through the manufacturing process, washed and pressed, what’s left is a product with no THC or psychoactive compounds.

When choosing strains to help strengthen your skin, you’ll want to choose strains rich in CBD. CBD, when infused in oils or topical treatments, helps with many dermal skin problems.

What Other Effects of Pruritus Can Medical Marijuana Treat?

Besides relieving itching and inflammation, which pruritus shares with eczema. Medical marijuana for pruritus can help with:

  1. Sleep disturbances — Strains for insomnia include Tahoe OG Kush (Indica), Purple Urkle (Indica), Godfather OG (Indica) and Granddaddy Purple (hybrid).
  2. Anxiety — Strains for anxiety include Northern Lights (Indica), Grandaddy Purple (hybrid) and Chocolate Chunk (Indica).
  3. Depression — Strains for depression include Jack Herer (Sativa), Pineapple Express (hybrid) and Cannatonic (hybrid).

Side Effects of Medical Marijuana

Even though marijuana is effective for pruritus, it does have some side effects of its own, including:

Discuss these and all other possible side effects with a doctor before you begin cannabis for pruritus treatment.

The Best Method to Use Medical Marijuana for Pruritus

Pruritus patients might not want to smoke medical marijuana to receive its benefits since it could trigger a flare-up. Instead, pruritus patients may benefit more from applying a cannabinoid oil topical directly to their skin.

Many topical steroid creams doctors often prescribe to patients for conditions with pruritus can come with hazardous side effects, like the potential to develop lymphoma or tuberculosis. Cannabis for itchiness is ideal for any inflammation and irritations of your skin since it’s just as beneficial and therapeutic as other anti-inflammatory medications, but without the side effects. CB2 receptors in an individual’s skin have been shown to react positively to cannabinoids, leaving skin improved and feeling healthy.

cbd for itchiness

Applying medical marijuana for pruritus topical cream or oil to the affected areas can help decrease the inflammatory response and cut down on the irritation which causes you to scratch, allowing your skin to heal. You apply topical cannabinoid treatments, which have no psychotropic effects, directly to your skin.

You also have the choice of salves, balms, hempseed oil and ointments, all infused with cannabis, within the topicals family. Outside of topicals, you can try edibles and tinctures.

Recent Developments in Pruritus

The field of pruritus research is constantly changing, and medicine has already made many advances this decade. In particular, there have been steps forward in the understanding of chronic itch and scratching, including:

  1. The identification of greater roles for glia and immune cells in itch transmission
  2. The identification of new central and peripheral itch modulators and mediators
  3. A focus on the brain processing of scratching and itching

A few new therapeutic interventions for pruritus have proven successful. Also, there have been clinical trials conducted to help reduce pruritus, such as:

  1. A study to evaluate the product WO 3308 and its cosmetic features by means of an interview situation with a questionnaire after a couple of weeks of product treatment. This study gave special consideration to the cosmetic efficacy, performance and skin compatibility, with an extreme focus on pruritus reduction.
  2. A clinical trial involving intrathecal morphine in cesarean section-related pruritus and its severity, incidence, and relation to serum serotonin levels
  3. A study to evaluate how well naloxone treatment works for itching in children

Get Relief Now With Your Medical Marijuana and Pruritus Treatment

You have an abundance of resources available to you here at MarijuanaDoctors.com to help you decide if marijuana for itchiness is right for you. You also have a variety of choices of cannabis-infused pruritus products to help heal your skin.

For additional information on pruritus and how cannabis can help, you should speak with a medical cannabis doctor. They’ll answer your questions and potentially give you a recommendation for medical weed treatment. Book your appointment today.

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Resources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2924137/
  2. http://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/dermatology/pruritus-itch/
  3. https://www.livestrong.com/article/340189-hemp-seed-oil-for-skin/
  4. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-04/uoca-cms041717.php

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