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Can Medical Cannabis Treat Lupus?

Florida Medical Marijuana has been helping residents and snow-birds manage debilitating health concerns since it was legalized in 2016. Many conditions, such as anxiety, cancer, lupus, and multiple sclerosis will qualify you for a Florida Medical Marijuana Card. In order to see if you might be eligible, take this quick survey to find out!

DocMJ’s team of compassionate Qualified Florida Medical Marijuana Doctors and support staff are here to help guide you along your medical cannabis journey. Book a risk-free appointment today to start the process of becoming a Florida medical cannabis patient. 

What is Lupus?

Lupus is a disease that occurs when your immune system attacks your body’s own tissues and organs (autoimmune disease). Inflammation caused by lupus can affect different body systems including joints, skin, blood cells, kidneys, brain, heart and lungs.

This auto-immune disease can be difficult to diagnose because its signs and symptoms often mimic those of other conditions or ailments. The most distinctive sign of lupus is a facial rash that resembles the wings of a butterfly unfolding across both cheeks. It occurs in most but not all cases of lupus.

Some people are born with a tendency toward developing lupus, which may be triggered by infections, certain drugs or even sunlight. When people talk about lupus, they’re usually talking about systemic lupus; however there are four different kinds of lupus: 

What Causes Lupus?

While there is no certain known cause of lupus, it is likely that it results from a combination of your genetics and your environment. Certain people with an inherited predisposition for lupus may develop the disease when they come into contact with something in the environment that can trigger the disease. Some potential triggers include:

  • Sunlight: Exposure to the sun may trigger skin lesions or an internal response.
  • Infections: Other infections can initiatie lupus and can even cause a relapse in some patients.
  • Medications: Lupus can be triggered by certain types of blood pressure medications, anti-seizure medications and antibiotics. People who have drug-induced lupus usually get better when they stop taking the medication. Rarely, symptoms may persist even after the drug is stopped.

Risk factors that may increase your risk of lupus include:

  • Sex: Lupus is more common in women.
  • Age: Although it affects people of all ages, lupus is most often diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 45.
  • Race: Lupus is more common in African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans.

Side Effects of Lupus?

Each person will experience lupus uniquely. Signs and symptoms may come on suddenly or develop slowly over time. They could be both mild or severe, and last temporarily or be permanent. 

Most people with lupus have mild disease characterized by episodes — called flares or flare ups — when signs and symptoms get worse for a while, then improve or even disappear completely for some time. The signs and symptoms of lupus that one will experience depends on which body systems are affected by the disease in that individual. 

The most common signs and symptoms include:

  • Butterfly-shaped rash on the face that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose or rashes elsewhere on the body
  • Fatigue
  • Skin lesions that appear/worsen with sun exposure
  • Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful periods
  • Joint pain, stiffness and swelling
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches, confusion and memory loss
  • Dry eyes

Cannabis for Lupus

Medical cannabis is an alternative option to the traditional medication used to treat lupus and its symptoms. It is primarily known to be an effective anti-inflammatory but it can also suppress certain parts of the immune system. It also helps patients manage their nausea and debilitating pain whenever they have a flare up.

Since lupus is characterized by its symptoms of inflammation and pain, medical marijuana products can be effective for treating and managing those symptoms. When you successfully lower the levels of the body’s inflammation-promoting protein (interleukin-2), and raise levels of the anti-inflammatory protein (interleukin-10) with cannabis it may be beneficial for treating autoimmune disorders, like lupus, where inflammation is the main complication. 

When your immune system is overactive because of lupus, it attacks healthy tissue and suppresses the immune system functionality. The active ingredients in marijuana, better known as cannabinoids,  help activate myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) and once activated, the MDSCs can help combat immune system hyperactivity.

While there isn’t a lot of lupus-specific research available due to federal restrictions on marijuana, many studies have shown that it can be beneficial for people with lupus. One study examined the effects of marijuana on the immune system.It found that cannabis smokers had higher levels of interleukin-10, which may suppress the immune system, and lower levels of natural killer cells and lymphocytes, which enhance immunity.

Other Natural Remedies for Lupus

While cannabis is a great option for managing symptoms of Lupus, there are other holistic and natural treatments that patients can try for added relief. Keep in mind that so far, scientific support for that claim that any form of alternative medicine can treat lupus is lacking. 

These are some suggested complementary therapies:

  • Vitamin and Mineral Supplements: Traditional lupus medications can cause your bones to thin and can even increase your risk of osteoporosis. In order to keep your bones healthy while on those medications, it is recommended that you increase your daily vitamin D and calcium intake.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to improve symptoms in lupus patients because of their effects on inflammation. {A} You can increase your omega-3 intake by eating oily fish (such as salmon and sardines) or flaxseeds, or by taking a daily omega-3 supplement.
  • Herbal Medicine: While they have not been specifically studied in lupus patients, anti-inflammatory herbs, like ginger and turmeric, may be helpful for lupus patients suffering from arthritic symptoms.
  • Mind-Body Techniques: Using mind-body therapies, such as hypnotherapy and guided imagery can help one deal with the stress of lupus. More sleep and regular exercise can also help in coping and alleviating stress.

Traditional Lupus Treatment

Western medicine has turned to pharmaceutical medications to help manage symptoms of lupus. Since lupus manifests uniquely in everyone, treatment regimens differ from patient to patient. 

In addition, one patient could experience several different treatment regimens during their lifetime so they can find which one works best for them. It is important that you understand the medications risks, benefits, and restrictions associated with the medications prescribed. The following drugs are commonly used to treat the inflammation and symptoms of lupus:

  • NSAIDs: These are anti-inflammatory medications that help relieve some lupus symptoms by reducing the inflammation causing the stiffness and discomfort in muscle, joints, and other tissues. They are milder than many other lupus medications and can either be taken alone to treat a mild flare up or in combination with other medications.
  • Steroids: Synthetic cortisone medications are some of the most effective treatments for lupus symptoms. They help reduce the swelling, warmth, pain, and tenderness associated with the inflammation of lupus. Cortisone typically works quickly to relieve these symptoms; however, it can also cause many unwelcome side effects, so it is usually prescribed only when other medications, like NSAIDs, are not sufficient enough to control lupus.
  • Immunosuppressive Medications: Immunosuppressives are medications that help suppress the immune system. These drugs are now used for the treatment of certain autoimmune diseases, like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Antimalarial Drugs: Plaquenil and other antimalarials help control lupus long term, and some lupus patients may be on Plaquenil for the rest of their lives.
  • DHEA: DHEA is a mild male hormone that is effective in treating some of the symptoms of mild to moderate lupus. These symptoms include hair loss (alopecia), joint pain, fatigue, and cognitive dysfunction. This hormone can also be effective against osteoporosis.

Getting a Florida Medical Marijuana Card

In order to be able to legally purchase and use medical marijuana products in Florida, you must first have qualified for a Medical Marijuana Card. A Qualified Patient must: 

  • Be a permanent or seasonal Florida resident
  • Be diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition by a qualified physician
  • Be entered into the Medical Marijuana Use Registry
  • Obtain a Medical Marijuana Use Registry Identification Card

While lupus is a condition that makes you eligible for a Florida Medical Marijuana Card, there are other conditions that can also qualify a person. The additional Qualifying Medical Conditions are:

  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Medical conditions of the same kind or class as or comparable to the others listed.
  • A terminal condition diagnosed by a physician other than the qualified physician issuing the physician certification.
  • Chronic nonmalignant pain caused by a qualifying medical condition or that originates from a qualifying medical condition and persists beyond the usual course of that qualifying medical condition.

If after reading the above you are still unsure if you qualify for your Florida medical marijuana card, this survey will tell you if you could be eligible. To take the next step, book a risk-free appointment with a qualified Florida Medical Marijuana Physician.

 If at the end of your appointment it is determined that you are not eligible per state guidelines, you will be issued a full refund. At the end of your appointment, you must apply for a Florida Medical Marijuana Card through the Office of Medical Marijuana Use. This typically takes around 2 weeks to process and once approved you are able to purchase medical marijuana products for a state-licensed dispensary location.