213 posts in the category “Multiple Sclerosis”

Marijuana and MS: Get the scoop

Posted October 23rd, 2017 by

From legality to availability, recreational use and potential use as treatment, marijuana is a hot topic. In the MS forum, members are talking about marijuana and its potential to relieve symptoms of MS like pain, tremor and spasticity. We wanted to know more, so we asked our Health Data Integrity team to take a look at this topic. So, what is marijuana and how can it impact health and MS? Take a look.

First, a quick refresher: What is Marijuana?

Marijuana is a mixture of dried flowers from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plants. The marijuana plant contains over 85 cannabinoids that are found in the leaves and buds of the female plant. Cannabinoids are classified as:

  • Phytocannabinoids: found in leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds of the plant.
  • Endogenous: made by the human body.
  • Purified: naturally occurring and purified from plant sources.
  • Synthetic: synthesized in a lab.

Cannabinoids create different effects depending on which receptors they bind to. These chemical compounds are responsible for marijuana’s effects on the body with the most common being delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Different strains with different combinations and levels of the various cannabinoids along with different methods of consumption give users varied effects.

How does marijuana impact MS?

Despite currently available FDA-approved treatments, many patients with MS still have symptoms. Recent studies suggest treatment with smoked cannabis and oral cannabis extract may improve patient perception of pain and spasticity.

The American Academy of Neurology, conducted a literature review and released a guideline on the use of marijuana in MS patients. This guideline reviews a number of studies where marijuana is used for MS and the findings of this review include:

  • Oral cannabis extract and synthetic THC may be effective for reducing patient-reported symptoms of spasticity and pain, but not bladder symptoms and neuropathic pain.
  • Nabiximols (Sativex®), an oromucosal spray, may be effective in reducing patient-reported spasticity, pain, and urinary frequency, but not urinary incontinence, anxiety symptoms, sleep problems, cognitive symptoms, or fatigue. However, it is important to note that this agent is not currently approved for use in the US.
  • There isn’t enough evidence to fully determine the safety or effectiveness of smoked marijuana in treating any MS symptoms.

If you are interested in reading more studies involving the use of marijuana in MS patients, check out these resources:

  • Long term effects of Sativex® on cognition (click here for more information)
  • Smoked cannabis for spasticity (click here for more information)
  • Dronabinol and pain (click here for more information)

So, what is the takeaway?

While preliminary research shows that marijuana may improve symptoms in patients with MS, more extensive clinical trials are in progress to evaluate the safety, efficacy, and dose of cannabis for patients with MS.

One of these studies is currently recruiting participants to investigate the effects of medical marijuana usage on physical functions on MS patients. To find out if you qualify and the location of the study, click here for more information.

Long-term safety of marijuana use for symptom management for patients with MS is not fully known. So, patients should be aware of the pros and cons of this treatment option and discuss the use of medical marijuana with their healthcare provider. While there are benefits that marijuana may provide for patients, there are many side effects that may limit the use of this therapy.

Most common side effects include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory disturbance
  • Changes in mood

Source: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana

Want to know more?

Sources:

https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/http://www.neurology.org/content/82/12/1083.full.pdf+htmlhttps://www.leafly.com/news/health/how-marijuana-affects-the-brainhttps://www.nationalmssociety.org/Treating-MS/Complementary-Alternative-Medicines/Marijuanahttps://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/marijuana/nih-research-marijuana-cannabinoids

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How to be your best health advocate

Posted October 3rd, 2017 by

PatientsLikeMe is pleased to announce a new collaboration with Cathy Chester, a wife, mother, advocate and the voice behind her blog, “An Empowered Spirit: Living a Healthy and Vibrant Life After 50.” You might’ve already seen Cathy’s #MoreThan story about her diagnosis and how she’s much more than MS. Here, Cathy dives into the importance of being your own best health advocate and how you can take charge of your health.

Self-advocacy has become a critical part of the doctor-patient relationship. It’s no longer enough for patients to relate their symptoms to their physicians and accept the response. Patients need to ask questions; they must act like detectives solving a mystery in order to find the answers they’re looking for. If you can’t find the answer you need quickly, you may end up shuttling between specialists and wondering if the professionals will ever figure out what ails you.

For example, let’s say you’re experiencing digestive issues. You start with your internist and undergo testing, but it’s inconclusive. Your doctor refers you to a gastroenterologist who performs invasive tests that produce a diagnosis. A medication is prescribed and you feel better in a few days. Weeks later your digestive issues return. Again, you call the gastroenterologist who suggests more invasive tests, or perhaps refers you to another specialist. You wonder if there are natural or holistic options because you’re hesitant about taking more prescription drugs.

What do you do? Will traditional medicine cure you? Is complementary medicine safe and reliable? Which websites provide credible information? Which doctor is trustworthy?

For me, there was nothing more important than seizing control of my health. It was a priority I couldn’t ignore. Being involved in the decision-making process can reap numerous benefits.

No one knows your body better than you, and no one has more at stake.

Here are a few steps you can take to become your own best health advocate:

Listen to your instincts – Your body is brilliant and gives you clear messages when something is wrong. Make an appointment to see a doctor if you feel something is awry.

Lists – Create a list of your health issues. Include how long you’ve been experiencing the problem, the severity of it, and list any questions you’d like to ask the doctor. Having a list to lean on is both necessary and important.

Research – Medical websites are great resources, but not all sites are reliable. Trustworthy sites should cite an article’s author and the medical credentials for the preparer or reviewer. (Examples of authoritative sites are American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, familydoctor.org, HealthyWomen.org, WomenHeart.org, National Institute on Aging, American Diabetes Association, American Stroke Association, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, National Institutes of Health, PubMed/National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Medlineplus, and healthfinder.gov.)

Use your voice – Speak up for yourself and insist doctors answer all of your questions. Make sure you give them thorough information and that they are listening. If you’re unhappy with your medical team find another one. Do not allow yourself to be rushed.

Understand how your health insurance plan works.

Review your medical bill for errors. Ask for an explanation if there’s an entry you don’t understand.

Get a second opinion when necessary. Ask for referrals from your doctor or people you trust.

Maintain your own health records. Learn from others who have experienced similar health issues. This can help you emotionally and provides you with the confidence to find what works for you.

Be persistent – If your doctor doesn’t return your call, call again. Insist on getting the answers you need.

Be organized – Never leave an office visit without a follow-up appointment or referrals and labs in hand. Use a written or computerized calendar to keep on top of your schedule. Take advantage of phone apps to keep you organized.

Get answers – If a doctor isn’t providing you with the answers you need find another one. Keep searching until you find what you need. Always keep your eye on the prize of wellness.

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