Millions of Americans today are living with psoriasis. It is a condition that begins with red patches of skin and silvery scales on the surface. Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a type of arthritis that affects individuals living with a chronic condition. Here are a few relevant stats that you may not know:
- An estimated 10-30% of people with psoriasis have PsA.
- Up to 40% of people with the condition didn’t know they had the disease.
- Caucasians are almost twice as likely to have PsA than African-Americans.
- It isn’t merely a cosmetic problem. 60% of people with psoriasis say it is a significant problem in their daily life.
In this article, we discuss what psoriatic arthritis is. We also look at how it manifests, and whether or not CBD oil can provide any relief.
Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis
It is a chronic condition that becomes worse over time. However, it is normal to see your symptoms improve briefly and also to experience spells where symptoms become worse. PsA can affect joints on one or both sides of your body. Its symptoms, which are similar to those associated with rheumatoid arthritis, include:
- Excruciating swelling of the fingers and toes. You could also develop deformities in your hands and feet before you have significant symptoms.
- A lower back condition called spondylitis, which inflames the joints between the vertebrae of the spine.
- Pain at the points where the ligaments and tendons attach to your bones. This pain is especially prevalent at the back of the heel and sole.
PsA is a progressive condition. This means early diagnosis and treatment is crucial to decrease the risk of irreversible joint damage. When physicians catch the illness relatively early, they can use medication to treat arthritis.
Diagnosis, Outlook, and Traditional Treatments
PsA happens when your body’s immune system attacks its healthy cells and tissue. Inflammation of the joints and excessive production of skin cells follow. Scientists are not sure what causes the immune system to behave in this manner. However, it seems as if environmental and genetic factors play a significant role.
A large proportion of people with PsA have a family history of the condition or psoriasis. Specific genetic markers are also associated with the disease. In some cases, a viral or bacterial infection can trigger PsA in people with a family history of the condition. Risk factors include:
- Age: Psoriatic Arthritis is most common in people aged 30 – 50.
- Family History: You are at higher risk if a parent or sibling has the disease.
- Psoriasis: You are especially likely to get PsA if you already have psoriasis, especially if you have lesions on your nails.
Finding a Solution Is Tricky
Physicians face significant challenges in trying to identify the condition. Most notably, there is a lack of standardized criteria. Five different individuals with PsA could have various symptoms and see five different types of medical professionals. For instance, you could see your physician, a rheumatologist, or a dermatologist for a diagnosis. Even so, we recommend visiting a doctor if you have joint problems that are getting worse.
Today, it is possible to diagnose a large percentage of people with psoriatic arthritis via patient history and physical examination alone.
If you have PsA, everyday tasks are a struggle because you could experience constant pain. A small percentage of sufferers develop a severe and debilitating form of the condition called arthritis mutilans. Eventually, this form of psoriatic arthritis will go on to destroy the small bones in the hands. The result is permanent disability and deformity. Furthermore, individuals with PsA are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease. They may also develop ocular conditions such as uveitis or pinkeye.
It is common for physicians to prescribe NSAIDs to help deal with the pain and inflammation. Other options include protein-based drugs called biologics, acupuncture, antidepressants, and DMARDs. Side effects of these treatments include possible liver and kidney damage, stomach irritation, and heart problems. Perhaps this is why an increasing number of people are looking to CBD.
Can CBD Help Treat Psoriatic Arthritis’ Symptoms Effectively?
Research relating to CBD’s effect on PsA is relatively thin on the ground. However, it is essential to remember that the condition is essentially a form of arthritis. There is detailed research that suggests cannabidiol could alleviate the inflammation, swelling, and pain associated with psoriasis.
There is a myriad of studies that appear to support the view of CBD offering arthritis pain relief. Overall, arthritis affects 50 million Americans. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the two most common forms.
A 2011 study published in Neuroscience Letters by Schuelert and McDougall, discovered that CBD helped to reduce inflammatory pain in rats. The marijuana compound affected the way the rodents’ pain receptors responded to stimuli.
More pertinently, a 2016 study by Hammell et al., published in the July edition of the European Journal of Pain, looked at topically applied CBD. The researchers said the cannabidiol had the potential to relieve the inflammation and pain associated with arthritis. The team used gels of four different CBD strengths, ranging from 0.6mg to 62.3mg per day. They applied it to rats with induced arthritis over four consecutive days.
The research team found that 6.2 mg and 62 mg a day were effective doses. The CBD gel “significantly reduced joint swelling, limb posture scores as a rating of spontaneous pain, [and] immune cell infiltration.” Moreover, there was no alteration in “exploratory behavior,” which suggests a limited effect on higher brain function. This is hardly a surprise since CBD is non-intoxicating.
Any Recent Research?
Palmieri et al. published a fascinating study in La Clinica terapeutica, an Italian journal, in April 2019. It involved a small group of 20 psoriasis patients. The goal was to investigate the therapeutic effect of CBD ointment administered for chronic skin diseases.
The researchers found that the ointment helped to reduce psoriasis symptoms. They also determined that it was safe and effective. It also improved the quality of life of the patients. The study reported no allergic or irritant reactions during the period of treatment.
The reason why CBD and other marijuana compounds are potentially effective against arthritis pain is because of their relationship with our endocannabinoid system (ECS).
Weed’s cannabinoids attach themselves to specialized receptors in the brain and the immune system. It is suggested that the CB2 receptor is what manages pain and inflammation in the immune system.
Recent research indicates that CBD possibly attaches to CB2 receptors to trigger a better ECS response.
An alternative theory suggests that the body produces natural cannabinoids in the ECS, which attach to the CB2 receptors. Scientists now believe that CBD has an impact on how these receptors respond to the signals they are sent. This is potentially the reason for the reduction in inflammation and pain.
What About Anecdotal Evidence on PsA and CBD?
There is a huge issue with anecdotal evidence. You never know whether a change in environment or lifestyle had as much to do with a sudden improvement as the supposed ‘wonder drug.’ Even so, there are a lot of positive stories involving cannabis and psoriatic arthritis. California-based writer, Cynthia Covert, suffers from PsA (and fibromyalgia) and once described herself as a “chronic corpse.”
She used a wheelchair. For 12 years, the pharmaceutical drugs she received failed to improve her condition. Cynthia used biologics, Valium, opioids, and muscle relaxers, but to no avail. In 2013, one of her friends (who had cancer) suggested that Cynthia start using medical marijuana.
Within three weeks of beginning weed-based treatment via the consumption of edibles, Cynthia regained the use of the pointer finger and thumb on her left hand. Her use of the wheelchair was reduced by 80%. She also found that using topical CBD on her psoriasis cleared up her skin condition. Although it took longer to work than pharmaceuticals, the CBD cream ensured the patch did not return.
Final Thoughts on CBD For Psoriatic Arthritis
Please remember that PsA and psoriasis are entirely separate conditions. While there is plenty of CBD-related research on the latter, there isn’t a great deal on the former. However, there are hundreds of studies in favor of medical marijuana, especially CBD. Researchers continue to study whether CBD is potentially capable of both preventing and alleviating chronic pain in people living with other forms of arthritis.
CBD’s connection with our ECS is fascinating. It could explain why an increasing number of users are championing it as an effective painkiller. Researchers believe that cannabidiol could affect receptors in the brain and the immune system. The result is reduced pain and inflammation.
Alas, a lot more research is required. Considering trying CBD? If so, consult with your primary physician before any use.
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