How Medical Marijuana Can Be Used to Treat McCune-Albright Syndrome

Updated on December 11, 2018.  Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer

How Medical Marijuana Can Be Used to Treat McCune-Albright Syndrome

McCune-Albright syndrome (MAS) is a type of fibrous dysplasia that’s extremely rare but accompanied by severe symptoms. Although the condition is benign, it can impair a patient’s quality of life because of issues with their bones, skin and hormones.

There are mainstream treatment options available for patients with MAS, including surgery and medications. However, operations incorporate the use of metal rods and screws to fix the issues and can result in more pain. Medications help individuals deal with painful symptoms to a point, but they can ravage patients with unwanted adverse side effects.

Medical marijuana could be the answer that patients with McCune-Albright syndrome need. It’s a safer alternative to many prescription pain meds, which include addictive opioids. It can also help manage some of the other symptoms associated with the condition. Even if a patient needs surgery for their MAS, cannabis can help patients manage pain after the fact.

Cause and Symptoms of McCune-Albright Syndrome

McCune-Albright syndrome is not contagious and it’s not hereditary, so medical professionals aren’t quite sure what causes it. However, they do know a gene mutation is what causes the overproduction of the G protein, which results in the symptoms associated with MAS.

There are three categories of MAS symptoms.

1.    Bone Symptoms

Like fibrous dysplasia, one of the most debilitating aspects of McCune-Albright syndrome is its effect on a patient’s bones. Those with MAS suffer from a polyostotic version of fibrous dysplasia, meaning multiple bones are impacted. Healthy bones are replaced with fibrous, scar-like tissue, making them weak and more susceptible to fractures.

The condition usually only impacts one side of the body in long bones like the femur, tibia, humerus or the skull or facial bones. Depending on the patient, the following symptoms could be present:

  • Bone lesions
  • Uneven facial structure or bones
  • Bone deformities
  • Fractures
  • Scoliosis
  • Difficulties walking
  • Bone pain

2.    Skin Symptom

Colored patches of skin caused by abnormal pigmentation, called café-au-lait spots, may be present in MAS patients from birth. Unlike other conditions that present these types of skin patches, MAS spots have irregular borders.

3.    Endocrine or Hormonal Symptoms

The endocrine glands, which control hormonal health, may malfunction in McCune-Albright syndrome patients at an early age. Some of the most common hormonal issues include:

  • Early puberty, including menstrual bleeding in early childhood
  • Enlarged thyroid
  • Nodules on the thyroid
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Pituitary gland issues
  • Acromegaly caused by an excess of the growth hormone
  • Rarely, Cushing’s syndrome develops

Standard Treatments for McCune-Albright Syndrome

Because McCune-Albright Syndrome affects many different areas of a patient’s life, multiple treatments may be needed to confront each of the issues the patient encounters.

  • Bone Therapies: Surgery and medication are the only options for MAS patients with fibrous dysplasia. Operations to insert metal rods and plates may be needed to strengthen a particular bone. However, these surgeries can be quite painful. A class of drugs called bisphosphonates is used to reduce bone loss and help with pain. Sometimes, they show an initial period of improvement but can result in a relapse that leaves patients in excruciating pain.
  • Endocrine Therapies: The hormonal issues experienced by MAS patients may not be severe, and thus don’t need medicinal intervention. However, for those encountering extensive glandular problems, drug therapy may be required. The surgical removal of the thyroid, pituitary or adrenal glands is another extreme option.

Treating MAS With Medical Marijuana

The number one reason McCune-Albright syndrome patients use medical marijuana is to help with pain management. The reason cannabis is so effective as an analgesic is in the way it relates to our endocannabinoid system (ECS). This system uses a series of receptors throughout the body that balance many bodily functions, from digestive health to pain management to emotional wellbeing.

When the ECS is off-balance because of disease or disorders, medical marijuana binds with its receptors to help certain symptoms. This means cannabis has untapped potential to treat a number of different conditions. For now, MAS patients take medical marijuana to help with:

  • Pain
  • Body stiffness
  • Mobility

But because of its far-reaching effects, we could soon be seeing marijuana medications that aid the glandular health of an individual or ones that prevent bone fractures. This is still in the research phase, but certain studies are showing hopeful outcomes.

If you have McCune-Albright Syndrome and struggle with chronic pain, talk to your doctor about medical marijuana. All treatments should be pursued under their supervision, as they understand your history and current condition — our advice should not replace theirs. For more information, reach out to a medical marijuana-certified doctor in your state or contact a medical marijuana dispensary.

Additional Fibrous Dysplasia & Cannabis Resources

For more information about how cannabis can be used to treat Fibrous Dysplasia, check out our resources: