Medical Marijuana and Psoriatic Arthritis
If you or a loved one has received a psoriatic arthritis diagnosis, you likely want to learn as much as you can about treatment. You can be better prepared to manage symptoms and lead a more comfortable and fulfilling life when you have a good understanding of the condition. As an often-painful condition, psoriatic arthritis needs to be diagnosed and treated early to prevent further damage to your joints.
Your doctor may recommend various conventional treatments, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroid injections, to help alleviate your psoriatic arthritis symptoms. But you may be worried about the risk of side effects of some traditional treatments and feel apprehensive about going down these routes.
You’re within your rights to explore other psoriatic arthritis treatment options and do what’s best for your own health and well-being. If you’re feeling concerned about your current treatment, why not consider trying medical marijuana? You’ll be delighted to know it promises to relieve some of your psoriatic arthritis symptoms, including pain, inflammation, insomnia and more.
Below, we’ll examine the alternative treatment of medical marijuana for psoriatic arthritis. You’ll also find out more about the symptoms, history and different types of other treatments for the condition.
What Is Psoriatic Arthritis?
Caused by an overactive immune system, psoriatic arthritis results in joint inflammation. It tends to mostly affect people with psoriasis, an autoimmune disease that results in a skin condition similar to a scaly rash.
The types of psoriatic arthritis include:
- Asymmetric psoriatic arthritis — Asymmetric psoriatic arthritis usually only affects a few of your joints. These can be small or large, and can be located anywhere in your body. Your fingers and toes may swell and have a sausage-like appearance.
- Symmetric psoriatic arthritis — Symmetric psoriatic arthritis mildly or severely affects joints in pairs on each side of your body. For example, both your knees could be affected when you have this condition. Symmetric psoriatic arthritis can damage your joints over time and can be disabling for 50 percent of patients. Hence, you need to seek treatment. The symptoms of this type of psoriatic arthritis mirror ones of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Spondylitis — This condition affects your spinal column. It causes stiffness and inflammation between the bones of your pelvis, lower back, spine and neck. The disease can also attack your ligaments.
- Distal interphalangeal predominant (DIP) psoriatic arthritis — Often mistaken for osteoarthritis, DIP mostly affects the small joints at the ends of your fingers and toes. It can also affect your nails.
- Arthritis mutilans —One of the most destructive and severe types of psoriatic arthritis, arthritis mutilans damages the small joints in your fingers and toes to such an extent they become deformed. Thankfully, this condition occurs rarely.
History of Psoriatic Arthritis
Now you know more about the types, let’s turn our attention to the history of psoriasis, as reported by the National Psoriasis Foundation.
- 1809: English doctor Robert Willan first accurately described psoriasis and recognized the condition as a distinct clinical entity.
- 1960s: The investigation of psoriasis as an autoimmune condition began in the ‘60s, which is when the medical community recognized psoriatic arthritis in its own right.
- 1970s: During this period, treatments based on each patient’s individual needs emerged. These included topical treatments, phototherapy, laser therapy and medications to suppress the immune system.
- 1990s: The Human Genome Project was launched in the early ‘90s and sparked the search to identify genes that determine psoriasis.
- 1998: Biologic medications created from substances found within living cells were at the cutting edge of research and treatment. They act on the immune system by targeting the cells that cause disease.
Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis
Psoriatic arthritis affects your musculoskeletal system and skin. Your lower back, wrists, ankles, knees and distal joints are the most commonly affected body parts involved if you have this condition.
Musculoskeletal symptoms include:
- Morning stiffness and exhaustion
- Inflammation of the spinal column that causes stiffness and pain in the lower back and neck
- Tenderness where ligaments or muscles attach to your bones, particularly the bottom of the foot and heel
- Joint swelling and pain that may be sporadic and is sometimes accompanied by warmth and redness
- Reduced range of motion of the joints
- Sausage-like and painful swelling of the fingers and/or toes
Skin symptoms include:
- Pitting of the nails
- Separation of the nails from the nail bed
- Redness and thickening of the skin with silver-white, flaky patches
Other symptoms to look out for are:
- Conjunctivitis, commonly known as pinkeye
- Infection or inflammation of the membrane lining your eyelid and an area of your eyeball
- General fatigue
Effects of Psoriatic Arthritis
Psoriatic arthritis can be an exhaustingly painful condition. You may feel embarrassed due to any noticeable changes in your joints.
Don’t worry if this sounds like you. Medical marijuana could be the lifeline you’ve been looking for to help you lead a normal and pain-free life!
Psoriatic Arthritis Statistics
Take a look at this fact presented by the Arthritis Foundation to learn about the prevalence of psoriatic arthritis in the U.S.
- In the U.S., 7.5 million people — approximately 2.2 percent of the nation’s population — are affected by psoriatic arthritis.
Read through these statistics from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases to find out who it most commonly affects.
- Psoriatic arthritis most commonly appears between the ages of 30 and 50.
- 10 to 20 percent of people with psoriasis go on to develop psoriatic arthritis.
Current Treatments Available for Psoriatic Arthritis and Their Side Effects
Your treatment plan for psoriatic arthritis depends on the severity of your symptoms.
Mild Psoriatic Arthritis
Your physician may prescribe you with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) if your disease only affects a few joints and is mild. NSAIDs treat inflammation and pain. However, side effects of NSAIDs can include:
- Heart, kidney and liver problems
- Stomach problems
- High blood pressure
- Skin rashes
- Fluid retention
The likelihood of experiencing side effects increases the longer you use NSAIDs. You should take these drugs at the lowest dose possible for the shortest time needed.
Severe Psoriatic Arthritis
Corticosteroid injections may help acutely inflamed joints, although they can cause osteoporosis and weight gain.
Your doctor may prescribe stronger disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) and/or antitumor necrosis factor (TNF) agents when your condition affects multiple joints and is persistent. DMARDs can cause rashes and stomach upsets and can be toxic to your bone marrow or liver. TNF can cause a range of side effects, from headaches and coughs to stomach pain and weakness.
How and Why Marijuana Can Be an Effective Treatment for Psoriatic Arthritis
In the U.S., lawmakers have long debated the legalization and use of cannabis for psoriatic arthritis and other conditions. While many people are familiar with its recreational effects, did you know pot has medical benefits, too?
Pot contains two specific cannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These two compounds can help control pain, and can be especially helpful for reducing chronic inflammation. Cannabinoids have been proven to have an active role in the reduction of joint inflammation, while inhibiting the progress of conditions that cause swelling and inflammation throughout the body.
Both these compounds participate in a physical pathway that decreases the manufacture and release of cytokines, the cells that cause inflammation. These also inhibit the functioning of STAT1 that is a crucial factor in inflammatory response.
THC and CBD also bind to your own cannabinoid receptors throughout your body. They then do the job of regulating inflammatory pain.
What Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis Can Marijuana Treat?
Cannabis could significantly alleviate your psoriatic arthritis symptoms. Individuals take medical marijuana for the treatment of the following psoriatic arthritis symptoms:
- Psoriasis rashes
- Inflammatory pain
- Neurological pain
Best Strains of Marijuana to Use for Psoriatic Arthritis
Once you have your medical marijuana card for medical cannabis for psoriatic arthritis, you can visit dispensaries and browse the strains and products that best treat your symptoms. If you’re in doubt, it’s worth talking to your medical marijuana doctor or budtender about your options.
In the meantime, we’ve put together a quick guide to help you get started. First, let’s take a look at the different categories of strains and their best medicinal uses:
Cannabis Indica Strains
Indica strains have a sedating whole-body effect and can, therefore, be beneficial for treating conditions like:
- Chronic pain
- Muscle spasms
- Rheumatic and arthritic swelling and stiffness
Cannabis Sativa Strains
Sativa strains give you the energy you need when you’re unwell. Symptoms best treated with Sativas include:
- Chronic pain
- Appetite stimulation
- Chronic pain
Cannabis Indica/Sativa Strains
Hybrid strains have the qualities of both Indicas and Sativas. Adding a Sativa to an Indica strain provides mental clarity with less of a sedative effect. Combining Indica and Sativa should lower the likelihood of a pure Sativa giving you anxiety.
So, let’s look at some strains that can help you for your psoriatic arthritis symptoms:
Psoriasis rashes can be extremely painful and itchy. Your doctor can prescribe you topical creams and lotions. However, you may want to use a more natural treatment:
- CBD lotions — Users say CBD lotions reduce their pain within mere minutes, and help clear up their skin more quickly than other prescription creams.
Chronic pain can significantly hinder your quality of life. The following strains of marijuana for psoriatic arthritis can offer you relief if you’re feeling uneasy about taking prescription painkillers:
- Cannatonic — As a high-CBD hybrid strain, Cannatonic can be a wise strain choice if you suffer from chronic pain. The strain gives you a very mellow and smooth effect that isn’t psychoactive due to its CBD levels. You can confidently use Cannatonic during the day, even before you go to work in the morning.
- Harlequin — Harlequin is a Sativa-dominant hybrid that’s rich in THC. As with Cannatonic, Harlequin reduces any paranoid, psychoactive and anxious side effects of THC. Therefore, Harlequin is safe for daytime use. As it contains neuroprotective compounds, Harlequin can be helpful for those who have psoriatic arthritis.
Nerve pain is another debilitating symptom of psoriatic arthritis. Strains to combat this include:
- SuperBud — The Indica-dominant hybrid strain SuperBud has high THC levels. You should take this strain at night, as it can help you get a good and pain-free sleep.
- Jack Herer — This Sativa-dominant hybrid makes you feel uplifted and full of energy. You should use Jack Herer during the daytime. Taking a little of this strain gives you a similar effect to a strong cup of coffee.
Because of the pain associated with your psoriatic arthritis, you may find you can’t get the quality of sleep you need. The two strains below might be helpful if you’re battling insomnia:
- Granddaddy Purple — Part of the Indica strain family, Granddaddy Purple is best taken before bedtime to treat insomnia and severe pain associated with your psoriatic arthritis.
- Critical Mass — Another Indica strain, Critical Mass makes you feel sleepy, relaxed and uplifted.
Best Methods of Marijuana Treatment for Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms
Now you know about some of the best strains of medical pot to alleviate your symptoms, let’s look at the most helpful methods of marijuana delivery.
First Things First
Particularly if you’re new to cannabis, you should begin with a low dose and slowly work your way up from there until you find the optimum dosage for you. As you won’t always feel the effects of pot immediately, you should introduce marijuana slowly into your system. Dosages vary significantly between individuals, too. A dose that works well for someone else might be too strong or too weak for you.
Some factors that impact the effect include:
- Route of consumption
- Amount used
- History and experience of marijuana use
There are many ways you can take pot. Pick out a few you’re interested in and see how things go. Methods include:
- Smoking — Smoking pot provides you with an inexpensive instant relief method. The downsides are lung damage from smoking, and the lingering smell of cannabis in your clothes and hair.
- Sprays — Cannabis sprays come in a variety of mild and pleasant flavors.
- Vaping — Vaping provides fast relief, and isn’t as harsh on your lungs as smoking a joint.
- Tinctures — You put these alcohol-based extracts into your food and drinks.
- Topicals — Topical ointments and lotions bring fast relief for your psoriasis symptoms.
- Juices — You can blend raw, fresh cannabis leaves with some healthy juice.
- Suppositories — You can purchase suppository-making kits at health food stores or online.
- Edibles — You can make or purchase your own edibles. You can eat edibles discreetly, but you need to be careful to add the right dose of pot to your recipes.
Doctors and patients alike are becoming more educated on the current benefits, research and legalities of prescription cannabis. To date, Connecticut has approved severe psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis as a qualifying condition for the use of medical marijuana. Other states have approved arthritis, inflammatory autoimmune-mediated arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis as qualifying conditions. We expect to see more states approve various types of arthritis for qualified medical marijuana use in the future.
If you’re currently seeking a way to relieve your psoriatic arthritis symptoms naturally, search for a medical marijuana doctor or dispensary today to find out more about cannabis and psoriatic arthritis.