Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome: An Overview
Ehlers-Danlos syndrome has a negative impact on the skin, the blood vessels, the joints, and connective tissues. Our connective tissues usually provide elasticity and strength to our bodies underlying structures. In the majority of cases, people that develop Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome can have stretchy and fragile skin, and their joints can have a large range of movements.
When joints loosen due to Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, they become unstable and are susceptible to dislocation. This can cause early-onset arthritis, alongside chronic pain. Stretchy, fragile skin bruises easily, and the disorder cause gashes and wounds to open with ease. This leads to scars that widen with time. Damaged skin will not heal well and usually stitches tear-out. Another common characteristic of the syndrome is extra folds of skin.
Specific forms of Ehlers-Danlos can impact problems with the vascular system and lead to rupturing blood vessels, internal bleeding, and life-threatening conditions. In some instances, a kyphoscoliosis form of Ehlers-Danlos can cause curvature of the spine and damage the natural breathing process.
Ehlers-Danlos patients frequently experience severe pain, making it challenging to complete necessary daily tasks. The intense abdominal pain, muscle pain, migraines, fatigue, and neuropathic pain caused by this condition have been known to be associated with some psychiatric and anxiety disorders. Additionally, the pain caused by loose joints from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome can trigger psychosocial factors, with headache and fatigue being common symptoms of the syndrome.
This condition can be caused by genetic mutations and is commonly inherited through genetics. The mutated genes that cause Ehlers-Danlos syndrome are generally responsible for making the proteins that form collagen. Research from Mayo Clinic revealed that people living with the most common variations of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome have a 50% chance that they will pass the condition onto their children. However, new gene mutations can see Ehlers-Danlos appear in individuals with no family history of the syndrome.
Unfortunately, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome has no cure at this moment in time. However, there is treatment available to manage its symptoms. This treatment often includes pain medications that can be dangerous and addictive if taken for long periods. For vascular Ehlers-Danlos, blood pressure medications are required to try and reduce all the stress the condition causes for blood vessels. Sometimes, physical therapy is necessary to strengthen the muscles around the joints that have become loose.
Cannabinoids, CBD and the Effects on Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
Cannabis has been proven to help patients living with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome manage the chronic pain associated with the condition. The studies that support the effectiveness of cannabis as a pain reliever are incredibly vast, Cannabis and CBD have been shown to lower pain levels significantly, even proving to be more effective than opiate-based pain killers and other pharmaceuticals in some cases.
One specific study looked at the most effective pain control options for patients with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Without including cannabis, opiates were the number one choice for patients. The problem is, opiates come with their own problems — issues such as constipation, appetite loss, nausea, sedation, and respiratory depression.
Other studies have revealed that cannabinoids, in comparison to opioids, are great at relieving pain at lower doses and cause fewer side effects. After twelve months of regular use, patients that had suffered chronic pain were at no higher risk of adverse effects than people that didn’t use cannabis.
Countries That Have Approved Medical Cannabis for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
Currently, no U.S. states have approved medical cannabis specifically for the treatment of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. However, just a few weeks ago in the U.K., The Guardian ran a piece about Lucy Stafford, a nineteen-year-old from Cambridge who has Ehlers-Danlos.
Lucy is one of the few lucky patients in the U.K. to have been prescribed a private prescription for medical cannabis. Her doctor has said that this revelatory prescription has helped to transform her life.
After suffering bouts of chronic pain since the age of ten, Stafford spends most of her teenage years taking strong opiates, the most recent of which was fentanyl, which is 50 times more potent than heroin.
Over the years, she had many operations and treatments for lower back pain caused by her Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and seemed to be in an endless course of potent pharmaceutical painkillers. At one point, she was even physically dependent on Tramadol, a potent painkiller with many adverse side effects.
In America, several states will consider allowing medical cannabis to be used for the treatment of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome with a recommendation from a physician. These states include: California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington
Recent Studies on CBD’s Effect on Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
12 of 15 chronic pain patients who consume herbal cannabis for therapeutic reasons reported an improvement in their pain levels of pain. Taking cannabis has shown to improve people’s neuropathic pain that had proven unresponsive to other treatments. The effectiveness of cannabinoids in the management of chronic nonmalignant neuropathic pain: a systematic review.