Updated on June 11, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Sjogren’s syndrome can affect anyone, but it most commonly develops in women over the age of 45. Although it’s primarily recognized by its two main symptoms, dry mouth and dry eyes, Sjogren’s is actually an immune system disorder.
There’s no cure for Sjogren’s syndrome, pronounced “SHOW-grins,” but patients usually can live quality lives while receiving treatment from their physician. Patients with the disease sometimes develop other autoimmune disorders, like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. When this happens, it can greatly deteriorate their condition, causing them to experience pain or discomfort.
Medical marijuana is an effective therapy for those suffering from some of the most severe aspects of Sjogren’s syndrome. It treats pain and inflammation the disease can cause — but more than that, medical marijuana may actually give your immune system an added boost. This could prevent Sjogren’s from developing into another autoimmune disorder and causing other bodily complications.
Like other autoimmune disorders, patients with Sjogren’s syndrome have an immune system that is out of whack. Instead of attacking foreign bodies or disease, the immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells and tissues. Although medical researchers aren’t completely sure what causes the disorder, they believe certain genes put people at a higher risk. It could also be triggered by infection, virus or bacteria.
In patients with Sjogren’s syndrome, the immune system’s first targets are the glands that produce tears and saliva — that’s why the eyes and mouth are the primary parts of the body to be impacted. But, the disorder can also cause damage to other body parts as the immune system continues to attack healthy tissue. This includes:
Some of cannabis’ most profound effects happen in the immune system. The plant interacts powerfully with our body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which has receptors that can be found in every major bodily system, including the immune system.
The plant is made up of more than 100 active chemical compounds called cannabinoids, with the two most notable being THC and CBD. Aside from providing significant benefits such as pain and nausea relief, cannabinoids are also immune-modulators that act upon the receptors in the immune system to modify their effects.
A strong, healthy immune system is necessary for survival. Even though inflammation has a bad rep, it’s essential to the prevention and healing of infections and injury. However, when the immune system goes awry, medical marijuana can be used to keep it in check.
Such is the case with autoimmune diseases like Sjogren’s syndrome. Chronic inflammation is what leads to many of the added complications associated with the disorder. Marijuana is a powerful anti-inflammatory that could prevent the deterioration of bodily parts impacted by inflammation.
There’s one discrepancy — does cannabis suppress the immune system to a dangerous point? Early research says no. Although more studies are needed to determine additional benefits, studies conducted on patients with HIV show the plant can actually boost the immune system.
This is good news for patients with Sjogren’s syndrome and other autoimmune diseases since the only other treatment that suppresses immune function is an immunosuppressant regimen. These medications do aid patients with autoimmune conditions by preventing the immune system from attacking its own cells and tissues. However, there is a long list of side effects, a few of which are:
If a patient is taking an immunosuppressant, they are also more susceptible to disease and infection, which can lead to dangerous complications.
If you’re interested in learning more about how medical marijuana could be a potential treatment for your Sjogren’s syndrome, make an appointment with a marijuana doctor today. Not only can they assess your condition to see if you qualify for cannabis treatments, but they can also answer any questions you may have about the benefits of medical marijuana.