Sickle cell anemia is a type of inherited anemia that affects the production of healthy red blood cells in the body. It is one of a few sickle cell disease disorders and can cause extreme fatigue and pain. While there are medications available to treat this condition, recent research has shown that medical cannabis may also be an effective method for easing symptoms.
Causes and Symptoms
Sickle cell anemia is caused by genetics, specifically a mutation in the gene responsible for hemoglobin production. Hemoglobin is what gives red blood cells their shape and allows them to carry oxygen throughout the body. With sickle cell anemia, the hemoglobin becomes abnormal and causes the red blood cells to form into a crescent or sickle shape. These abnormal cells can get stuck in small blood vessels, blocking blood flow and causing pain and complications.
Symptoms of sickle cell anemia include fatigue, pain, infections, eye problems, swelling of the hands and feet, and delayed growth. The severity and frequency of these symptoms can vary among individuals with sickle cell anemia.
There are medications available to manage symptoms of sickle cell anemia. Droxia is a medication that can reduce the need for blood transfusions, while Endrail can lessen the occurrence of sickle cell crisis. Pain-relieving medications are also prescribed to manage pain associated with sickle cell anemia.
Preventing infections is also important in managing sickle cell anemia. Many adults with this condition take antibiotics like penicillin their entire lives to prevent infections based on underlying conditions.
Medical Cannabis as a Treatment Option
Recent research has suggested that medical cannabis may be an effective treatment option for sickle cell anemia. A 2018 study published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research reviewed findings from clinical-care urine tests on people with sickle cell disease who experienced acute and chronic pain. The study found that many patients were interested in using medical cannabis as a potential treatment for their symptoms.
Another study published in 2005 in the British Journal of Hematology showed that cannabis use could ease pain and reduce anxiety in individuals with sickle cell disease. The majority of patients expressed their willingness to participate in studies of cannabis as medicine.
A 2020 study from the University of California in Irvine found that vaporized cannabis appears to be generally safe and may be a potentially effective treatment for sickle cell disease. As the study progressed, subjects reported that pain interfered less and less with activities, including walking and sleeping. There was also a statistically significant drop in how much pain affected their mood.
Sickle cell anemia is a type of inherited anemia that affects the production of healthy red blood cells in the body. While there are medications available to manage symptoms, recent research has suggested that medical cannabis may also be an effective treatment option for sickle cell disease. Medical cannabis may help to ease pain and improve quality of life for individuals living with this condition. However, more research is needed to fully understand the potential benefits and risks associated with using medical cannabis as a treatment option for sickle cell anemia.