Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune condition that can affect the brain and spinal cord, sometimes causing serious disability – though it can occasionally be mild. MS is a lifelong condition that can cause a wide variety of symptoms and a slight reduction in life expectancy.
MS typically starts in one of two ways: with individual relapses (attacks or exacerbations) or with gradual progression. More than 8 out of 10 of people diagnosed with MS are diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS. Just over 1 in 10 people with the condition begin with gradually worsening symptoms – this is known as primary progressive MS.
The symptoms of MS can vary widely from person to person and can affect any part of the body. Symptoms may come and go in phases and can get steadily worse over time. The main symptoms include:
The exact cause of MS is unknown, but it occurs when the immune system attacks healthy parts of the body – namely, the myelin sheath at the brain and spinal cord (the layer that surrounds and protects nerves). This damages the myelin sheath and potentially the nerves themselves and causes messages travelling along the nerves to be slowed or disrupted.
It is not fully understood what makes the immune system actin this way, but most experts believe a combination of environmental and genetic factors are involved.
There is currently no cure for MS, but a number of treatments are available for the management of the condition and its symptoms. These include medicines such as steroids to speed up recovery in relapses with short courses; disease-modifying therapies to reduce the number of relapses; and treatments for specific symptoms such as spasticity.
Disease-modifying therapies may also help to slow or reduce the overall worsening of disability in patients with relapsing remitting MS and in those with secondary progressive MS who have relapses. However, there is currently no treatment that can slow progression of the condition in patients with primary progressive MS, or secondary progressive MS in the absence of relapses.
There is growing evidence to support the use of medical cannabis for the treatment of some symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. Studies have shown that cannabis-based medicines can be useful in in combination with existing treatments for the reduction of pain and spasticity associated with MS. A number of reviews have concluded that there is enough evidence to support the benefits of medical cannabis for Multiple Sclerosis.
Our specialist physcians are experienced in assessing individual cases and helping to determine whether medical cannabis could be an effective option.