Updated on December 19, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
As an autoimmune disorder, myasthenia gravis (MG) causes your immune system to attack itself. This immune system problem makes your muscles weak, resulting in the symptoms we associate with MG.
Some doctors approach MG treatment by reducing the immune system’s function to try to minimize the effects on your muscles. While they usually use immunosuppressants, they can also use medical marijuana for the same purpose.
MG is an autoimmune disorder that weakens your muscles. Your immune system attacks your body, including the space between your muscles and nerves. This malfunction results in damage to the nerves and receptors located there.
An MG patient’s immune system attacks their receptors for acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that communicates movement to your muscles. So, you eventually have fewer and less functional receptors, reducing the movement signals the muscle gets from the brain. The weakened message also weakens your muscles.
The weakness associated with MG usually happens in muscles related to swallowing, eye movement and facial expressions. MG patients can experience double vision, speech trouble, drooping eyelids and more. Patients who have MG in other areas of the body deal with symptoms associated with the muscle weakness that happens there.
Doctors can take all sorts of approaches to MG treatment. These options include thymus gland removal, antibody transfers, lifestyle changes and medication. And, of course, some doctors opt for immunosuppressive drugs.
Many folks would consider a suppressed immune system a bad thing, but patients with autoimmune disorders like MG can benefit from one. Since autoimmune diseases happen when your immune system works incorrectly, reducing its function reduces the disorder’s symptoms.
Common immunosuppressive drugs include prednisone, azathioprine and tacrolimus. They can cause side effects like urination issues, fatigue and pain. These side effects can make the treatment process challenging to deal with.
Medical marijuana relieves a lengthy list of symptoms, including health issues caused by an overactive immune system. It gives you the same results as an immunosuppressant drug, and it’s all thanks to its components.
We call the compounds found in marijuana cannabinoids. Our bodies make similar components. We even have a built-in system called the endocannabinoid system that interacts with them! When we treat symptoms with medicinal cannabis, we work with the body’s natural functions to provide relief.
As a part of the endocannabinoid system, your cells have cannabinoid receptors specially made to activate when they come in contact with cannabinoids. You have two kinds of cannabinoid receptors — CB1 receptors and CB2 receptors.
When cannabinoids activate the CB2 receptors in our cells, your immune system receives signals to stop working as much. Your immune system lowers or eliminates its attacks on your body, reducing your symptoms.
Cannabis can reduce the symptoms of autoimmune disorders. So, many patients use it as an alternative to immunosuppressants and other standard medications. It can solve the same problems as immunosuppressive medicine, but without the harsh side effects. Plus, it treats other symptoms at the same time.
Marijuana medicine can also increase the amount of acetylcholine you have. So, your muscles become stronger from the increased neurotransmitter levels, and your immune system stops the attacks that reduced them in the first place.
The key to using medical marijuana effectively is to get guidance from an industry expert. Doctors can help new patients, and dispensary staff can help current patients. Search for a cannabis-friendly doctor and a high-quality dispensary right now.