What is multiple sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune condition which affects around 1 in 600 people in the UK. It is caused by the body’s immune system attacking itself, resulting in inflammation in the brain and/or spinal cord. The disease is known for causing many symptoms that change over time according to
the development of acute flare ups or progression of the condition.
The types of multiple sclerosis are classified according to the pattern of disease progression. These include relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), primary progressive MS (PPMS), clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), and secondary progressive MS (SPMS).
What causes multiple sclerosis?
The causes of multiple sclerosis are unknown, but it is understood as a complex interaction between a person’s genes and their environment. It is thought that people who have a family member with MS are more likely to develop it themselves. MS is also more common in females and those who live in norther
n latitudes. Since there is no clear explanation why MS occurs it is difficult to distinguish a direct cause and it is therefore most likely to be multifactorial.
Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms
The symptoms of MS will vary for each individual depending on which aspect of the nervous system their condition affects. Some symptoms of multiple sclerosis are commonly identified as:
- Spasticity or increased muscle tone
- Vision problems
- Tremors or spasms of the muscles
- Altered sensations or tingling beneath the skin
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Weakness or paralysis of muscles
- Mobility problems
- Depression and anxiety
- Bowel or urinary problems
Multiple sclerosis treatments and conditions
Treatment for multiple sclerosis can be broken down into treatments to reduce active inflammation or reduce the likelihood of acute attacks and those used to treat associated symptoms of MS.
Specialist medications that aim to slow disease progression are known as immunosuppressant medications. Relapses are usually treated with a short course of corticosteroids. Symptomatic management is usually aimed to reduce the severity of symptoms such as spasticity, bladder dysfunction, and pain. Whereas relapses are treated with a short course of corticosteroids.
A medical cannabis product, Sativex® (nabiximols), is a licensed treatment for MS-related spasticity in the UK. In addition, other medicinal cannabis products can be considered by doctors on the GMC’s Specialist Register when first line therapies have not achieved adequate benefit in improving symptomatic management.
How is multiple sclerosis diagnosed?
A multiple sclerosis diagnosis is normally made by a specialist doctor. Important diagnostic tests that are required include magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain and spinal cord to identify lesions where the body’s immune system has attacked the nervous system. To be formally diagnosed with MS it is necessary to demonstrate having more than one attack. As such the journey to a diagnosis may be prolonged for many individuals.
How do you test for multiple sclerosis?
The most important test is an MRI of the brain and spinal cord, as this is the gold standard for detection of lesions where the body’s immune system has attacked the nervous system. Other tests may include blood tests to rule out alternative causes of symptoms or a lumbar puncture to examine the fluid that surround the spinal cord, called the cerebrospinal fluid.
Multiple sclerosis and medical cannabis
Research into the effect of medicinal cannabis on multiple sclerosis is limited. However, following the legalisation of cannabis for medical purposes in 2018, there has been a rise in numbers turning towards medical cannabis. When first-line therapies have not proved effective at reducing symptoms, medical cannabis may be considered an option for multiple sclerosis.
A medical cannabis product, Sativex® (nabiximols), is a licensed treatment for MS-related spasticity in the UK. This can only be prescribed on the NHS by consultant neurologists for patients who meet certain criteria.
For further information and to find out more about medical cannabis, click here to discover more about our award-winning Curaleaf Access Scheme. Alternatively, complete an eligibility assessment now. Once complete, one of our clinicians will review your application and advise whether you are eligible for progression to an appointment.