Multiple Sclerosis is one of those conditions that most of us have heard of, but also seem to know very little about. Often shortened to MS, multiple sclerosis is a degenerative disease that affects movement, senses, and cognitive ability.
An increased interest in CBD has led many people to wonder whether CBD oil for MS could prove to be an effective form of treatment. Recent studies have shown that CBD can be used as an effective method of treatment for a number of different conditions, and so it only makes sense that people question its potential impact on MS.
Let’s take a look at precisely what multiple sclerosis is and whether CBD could prove to be a useful form of treatment.
What Is MS?
The primary definition of multiple sclerosis is a condition that affects the brain and the spinal cord, resulting in difficulty with movement and interpreting senses. Common problems include blurred or worsening vision, difficulty moving limbs, and a lack of balance.
Multiple sclerosis is a lifelong condition that worsens with time. The severity of symptoms can vary drastically from person to person. Some people find that they only experience mild symptoms, while others are left disabled and unable to perform routine daily tasks.
Multiple sclerosis can develop at any age. However, most people are diagnosed between the age of 20 and 30. Multiple sclerosis is thought to be more common in women than it is in men.
There are a number of different types of MS, with each one causing various symptoms and requiring slightly different forms of treatment. Let us take a look at all of these different types in a little more detail.
Relapsing-remitting MS is the most common form of the condition, with 8 out of 10 people who are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis having relapsing-remitting MS. As the name suggests, relapsing-remitting MS is characterized by symptoms that come and go.
Known as episodes, symptoms can occur anywhere from 24 hours to a few months before disappearing, only to then come back at a later date. The time between events is referred to as remission and can vary from as little as a few days to as long as years.
Most people who have relapsing-remitting MS will develop secondary progressive MS with 15 to 20 years of first being diagnosed.
Secondary Progressive MS
Secondary progressive MS occurs after a relapse of remitting MS. Rather than experiencing periods of remission, secondary progressive MS causes symptoms that are continuously present.
A person who develops secondary progress MS will no longer experience periods of remission. Rather than symptoms disappearing for months or years at a time, they persist becoming worse over time.
Primary Progressive MS
Primary progressive MS is rare, only affecting one in every ten people who are diagnosed with MS. The main characteristic that sets primary progressive MS apart from relapsing-remitting MS is that there are no periods of remission.
The symptoms of primary progressive MS are always present, although some people find that there are periods where the condition appears stable and more manageable.
Much like primary-progress MS, progressive-relapsing MS is characterized by symptoms that get progressively worse over time. The main difference between the two primary forms of the condition is that with progress-relapsing MS symptoms come and go with patients experiencing periods of remission.
Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
The symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis are hard to predict as they can vary hugely from one person to another. It is common for symptoms to change and fluctuate over time.
The main symptoms that can occur as a result of multiple sclerosis include blurred or limited vision. Over time a person with MS might find that their sight becomes increasingly limited over the course of several years.
Tingling and numbness are another prevalent symptom of multiple sclerosis and is one of the early warning signs that someone might have the condition. Numbness can occur across the entire body or be limited to just the arms and legs.
A feeling of weakness or fatigue is also extremely common, adding to the feeling of being restricted and challenged by one’s own body. It is thought that around 80% of people with MS will experience fatigue to some degree.
Vertigo can often occur as a result of MS. It is common to experience a sudden dizzy, and unsettling feeling.
As symptoms progress, bladder issues can occur as a result of damaged nerves and a lack of sensation within the bladder and surrounding areas of the body. Bladder dysfunction affects 80% of people who have MS in varying levels of severity.
Sexual dysfunction is another unfortunately common symptom of MS in men. Damage within the central nervous system can cause a feeling of numbness and a general lack of stimulation.
During the later stages of multiple sclerosis, cognitive problems are common in around 50% of people who have MS. The brain’s ability to process incoming information can become damaged, making it difficult to retain information and stay focused.
How Is Ms Diagnosed?
The initial stage of diagnosis will involve a blood test, allowing your doctor to rule out other conditions that present similar symptoms.
There are currently no biomarkers that can be used as a way of detecting Multiple Sclerosis, and as such, blood tests are very much about ruling out rather than diagnosing.
Spinal Tap (Lumbar Puncture)
The next stage of a diagnosis will typically involve a spinal tap, or as it is sometimes called a lumbar puncture, whereby a small sample of fluid is removed from your spinal canal. The sample will then get sent off to a laboratory for analysis.
Tests on the removed fluid look for abnormalities in the antibodies within your nervous system. There are a number of irregularities that are thought to be linked to MS and are therefore used as a sign that the disease is present.
An MRI is used to take a more precise look at both the brain and spinal cord. An MRI allows doctors to look for lesions which show up as dark spots with the brain.
One of the main things that doctors are looking for in an MRI scan is whether any active lesions have become inflamed. Scans can also show areas where permanent damage has occurred.
Evoked Potential Tests
Evoked potential tests are sometimes used during the diagnosis of MS. Tests measure the speed at which nerve messages move between the brain and the rest of the nervous system.
There is currently no actual cure for multiple sclerosis, and as such, treatment is focused on slowing down the speedy progression of the disease and attempting to manage symptoms There is no set way to treat MS, as no two people will experience the same symptoms. The rate at which symptoms progress is also different for every person.
Treatment plans are put together for each individual based on the type of MS that they have, the symptoms that they display, and the rate at which symptoms appear to be progressing.
Below are just a scant few of the ways in which MS can be managed and treated.
Treatments for MS Attacks
Corticosteroids are a form of steroid treatment often prescribed with oral prednisone or intravenous methylprednisolone. These steroids are designed to reduce inflammation within the nervous system and shorten the length of a relapse.
Plasma Exchange (Plasmapheresis)
Steroid treatments do not work for every patient, and it is in these cases that plasma exchanges are considered.
A plasma exchange (plasmapheresis) involves the plasma within a person’s blood is removed. The separated plasma is then mixed with a protein solution. Once plasma cells have been mixed with a protein solution such as albumin, they are then put back into the body.
Treatments to Modify the Progression
Beta interferons are recommended for patients who have suffered from at least two relapses within a 12 month period. Beta interferons are one of the most commonly used treatments for slowing down the progression of MS and helping to reduce symptoms.
Given in the form of injection, beta interferons work to support the body’s natural supply of interferons. Interferons, a type of protein, reduce inflammation and can be used to prevent damage occurring within the nervous system as a result of inflammation.
Fingolimod is taken in the form of a daily oral capsule and is most commonly used to reduce the frequency of relapses.
Dimethyl Fumarate (Tecfidera)
Dimethyl fumarate is taken twice daily as an oral medication and is often used to reduce relapses. The treatment is normally only recommended for those who have active relapsing multiple Sclerosis, meaning that they have at least two relapses within the last year.
Teriflunomide, taken once a day in oral form, is used to reduce the rate at which relapses occur. Teriflunomide helps to dampen inflammation within the immune system.
Siponimod is taken once a day and is one of the most commonly used treatments for people with secondary-progressive MS. Siponimod is used to reduce the rate of relapses and to slow down the progression of symptoms at the same time.
Ocrevus is used to treat those suffering from active relapsing remitting MS. Ocrevus has proven to be a highly effective treatment that can reduce the number of relapses that a person experiences.
Ocrevus works by attacking the marker CB20 within the immune system, which is found on the surface of B cells. By targeting and destroying B cells, ocrevus is able to reduce the damage caused to nerves within the brain and spinal cord.
Natalizumab is used to treat patients with highly active relapsing MS. Natalizumab works by sticking to T cells within the immune system and prevents them from entering the brain and spinal cord.
Alemtuzumab (Campath, Lemtrada)
Alemtuzumab is used to treat those who suffer from relapsing MS and who, despite other treatments, show signs that the condition is worsening. Alemtuzumab works by killing both T and B cells within the immune system.
In patients with MS T and B cells attack the myelin, a covering around the nerves, causing damage to the brain and spinal cord. By killing such cells, the rate of relapses can be reduced by up to 50%.
Mitoxantrone is a chemotherapy drug that is used in the most extreme cases to reduce the rate of relapses. The drug is given in hospitals through an infusion that will be repeated every one to three months.
Mitoxantrone works by actively suppressing the immune system and, as a result, reduces the number of cells that are able to attack the myelin around nerves.
CBD Oil and MS
There is currently no perfect treatment when it comes to Multiple Sclerosis. Almost every treatment option comes complete with a long list of side effects and, at most, can only reduce the frequency of relapses.
The lack of effective treatment options has caused many people to turn to natural medications such as CBD in the hope of treating the disease. CBD is known to reduce inflammation within the body and has led to many questions as to whether it could reduce the rate of relapses, as so many other medications are able to do.
Let’s take a closer look at CBD oil and MS and what the research says.
CBD Oil for MS
Using CBD for MS is not a new idea, but one that has definitely incurred a great deal of interest in recent years. There is ever increasing evidence that CBD acts as an anti-inflammatory, while also being an antioxidative, antiemetic, antipsychotic, and neuroprotective.
While there are a bunch of different treatments currently available for treating MS, most come with the risk of experiencing some pretty severe side effects. CBD, on the other hand, is not thought to have any damaging side effects and is often used as a daily supplement even by those with no specific health concerns.
CBD supplements are now easily accessible in most western countries, often found within health food stores and pharmacies. You can take CBD on a daily basis all kinds of different ways, including CBD capsules, CBD oils, and CBD edibles.
The precise CBD dosage for multiple Sclerosis will very much depend on the individual. There are a number of factors to consider when deciding on the right dosage, including weight, natural tolerance, and severity of symptoms.
What does the research say about MS and CBD oil?
What the Research Says About CBD Oil and MS
There have been all manner of different studies into CBD oil and the effects that it can have on multiple sclerosis. Studies focus on three different elements: CBD and its ability to reduce relapses, CBD’s ability to slow down the progression of symptoms, and whether CBD can be used to manage symptoms.
Studies such as the one conducted by the Frontiers in Neurology in 2018 have found that the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD can help to reduce inflammation within the nervous system. It is thought that by reducing inflammation drugs such as CBD, is able to slow down the rate at which damage occurs within the brain and spinal cord, although this is still not fully understood.
The long term effects of using CBD to treat MS are still not fully understood, and it remains unclear whether CBD actually has a positive long term effect. The general consensus is that CBD can effectively be used to manage symptoms. There is still not enough evidence to show that CBD should be used in place of other treatments that reduce the rate of relapses.
A study in 2014 by the American Academy of Neurology found that CBD products can help to treat specific symptoms such as pain, numbness, and muscle spasms. Until further research is carried out, CBD is recommended as a supplement to help with the management of symptoms, rather than an alternative form of treatment.
Sativex is a medically approved cannabis treatment that is available in most countries, including the UK. The treatment is not thought to work for everyone and usually is only prescribed to those who are suffering from moderate or severe spasticity. Sativex has been found to reduce muscle spasms and stiffness, helping to increase movement.
Final Thoughts on CBD Oil for MS
There is still a monumental quantity of research that needs to be carried out in order to understand CBD oil and MS fully. It remains unclear whether CBD for MS can actually be used as an effective way to slow down and manage the actual condition or whether it is merely a natural way to control symptoms.
Studies have shown CBD to be a useful tool for managing symptoms such as pain, muscle spasms, and inflammation. Given that there are so few side effects associated with CBD and that it is commonly used as a supplement, there seems to be no evidence that it cannot be used as part of a treatment plan for MS.