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Medical Marijuana and Eczema

What Is Eczema?

Eczema is a skin condition that presents as a scaly rash. There are a number of different causes and the condition can range in severity. The most common cause of eczema is an allergic reaction. It can also co-occur with other allergic reactions, such as hay fever. Another common cause is simply skin irritation. If something rough rubs against the skin of a person who is susceptible to eczema, it may occur. Skin irritants found in common hygiene products can produce the same result. While eczema can appear at any age, infants and small children are particularly likely to have the condition. It tends to disappear or reduce in severity with age. It also tends to run in families.

Medical Marijuana and Eczema

Medical Marijuana and Eczema 

The primary symptom of eczema is a red, inflamed rash. The rash can be very itchy and will often itch before a rash even appears. The skin does dry out significantly and may peel and/or bleed. The rash consists of oozing blisters and there may be some discharge from the ears. The blisters, bleeding and flaking do become worse with itching and can cause the rash to spread. The rash can spread to any area of the body and several areas can be affected at once. As with abrasives and scratching, water can make eczema worse. 

Preliminary research and user testimony leads to the conclusion that medical marijuana has the potential to treat eczema. The endocannabinoid system is not as well understood as say, the respiratory system. However, it is known that there are receptors for cannabinoids in the skin. This shows that cannabinoids have the potential to affect the skin. They may reduce inflammation, relieve itching and potentially treat eczema. It must be noted however, that eczema is more common in families that are susceptible to asthma. Therefore, smoked cannabis may not be the best option. 

Proposed Medical Marijuana Treatments for Eczema 

Aside from the approach that physicians take in areas that allow medical marijuana prescriptions for eczema, which are the more traditional methods of taking marijuana as medication, some have proposed that it be used as an ointment. There are numerous recipes for such an ointment available and significant testimony that it works. As anti-itch creams and other soothing medications for eczema are applied topically, it makes sense that, if marijuana works for eczema that it can do so without being ingested. There are endocannabinoid receptors in the skin and indications that active ingredients in marijuana can penetrate the skin. In fact, one of the methods of medical marijuana administration is through a skin patch. This could be an option for children, who are the most severely affected by eczema, as the medicine does not have to be smoked. Furthermore, there are medical marijuana derivatives that do not produce mind-altering side effects. 

Medical Marijuana and Inflammation 

There is some inflammation involved with eczema. While the itching and the rash are the most distracting and obvious symptoms, redness and inflammation are often present. Medical marijuana has a history of treating inflammation and there is currently some research suggesting that it can alleviate intestinal inflammation. Because the mechanism allowing this to work -- endocannabinoid receptors reacting to cannabinoids -- is the same in the stomach as it is anywhere else in the body, it is possible that the anecdotal evidence for marijuana helping reduce inflammation is true. However, more research is needed, as there is very little research involving medical marijuana and skin conditions. 

Medical Marijuana and Itching

Apart from the obvious cosmetic hindrance of eczema rashes, the biggest complaint with eczema sufferers is the itching. It can be intense and distracting enough to interrupt sleep or stop it from coming at all. According to a study testing the efficacy of medical marijuana in an anti-itch cream, more than 38% of a 2500 eczema patient study reported complete loss of eczema symptoms within three weeks of beginning treatment. More than 50% of them reported noteworthy diminishing of symptoms. While this is not a total victory, it is better than many treatments for eczema. There is no cure for eczema and relief for one patient is not relief for another. Many patients must undergo trial and error until they find a treatment that works for their symptoms, if they ever do find one. Of course, eczema can and does go away on its own, but sufferers are tormented by symptoms in the meantime.

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