A jackhammer pounding on your back is the way Andre Hinckson described his battle with sickle cell anemia to the New York Times.
“Imagine that kind of pain throughout your whole body,” said Hinckson. “Sometimes there’s pain in your joints, in the abdominal area, in your head, in your chest. Sometimes it’s all over at one time.”
Sickle cell anemia is a debilitating, inherited blood disorder that affects 100,000 Americans. Today we’re going to talk about how utilizing CBD for sickle cell anemia might be able to help other individuals fighting this same battle.
CBD and Sickle Cell Anemia at a glance
- What the claims are: CBD can help relieve many of the symptoms and complications of sickle cell anemia, including inflammation, pain, sleeplessness, depression, and anxiety.
- What the studies show: While more studies are needed, research suggests that using CBD for sickle cell anemia can assist with the pain, anxiety, sleeplessness, depression, and inflammation associated with this disease.
- What the facts say: Early studies as well as anecdotal evidence appear to support that adopting a CBD regimen might be beneficial for many people struggling with this blood disorder.
What exactly is Sickle Cell Anemia?
Sickle cell anemia is a disorder that causes red blood cells to change from their normal flexible, round shape to cells that are rigid, sticky, and crescent or “sickle” shaped. These irregularly shaped cells can get stuck, prohibiting those cells from being able to carry adequate oxygen throughout our bodies.
Sickle cell anemia is usually diagnosed in infancy, and largely affects those of Sub-Saharan African descent, as well as descendants of those from Spanish-speaking regions in the Western Hemisphere. It’s estimated that 1 in 12 African Americans carry the sickle cell gene, which is passed from generation to generation in a pattern called autosomal recessive inheritance, meaning both parents must pass on that gene for their offspring to be affected.
Sickle cell anemia is an inherited condition for which there are treatments but no cure, in most cases. That said, there are new studies suggesting a potential breakthrough utilizing gene therapy on the bone marrow of patients with sickle cell that is being lauded as a potential cure for some.
Signs and symptoms of sickle cell anemia vary but can include:
Anemia: In other words, a shortage of red blood cells resulting in a lack of the oxygen our bodies need to feel energized.
Pain: Periodic but potentially excruciating episodes called “crises” are a hallmark symptom of sickle cell anemia. Crises occur when the misshapen cells block blood flow to your chest, abdomen, and joints. The frequency of these episodes can vary wildly, with some patients experiencing only a handful of crises in a lifetime, and others suffering more than a dozen a year. Unfortunately, pain can become chronic due to bone and joint damage.
Swelling of hands and feet: This is caused from lack of blood flow.
Frequent infections: Sickle cells can damage the spleen, leaving you more vulnerable to infection.
Delayed growth: Low red blood cell count can result in delayed growth in infants and children.
Vision issues: Tiny blood vessels to the eye can become blocked, causing retinal damage.
There are also a host of potential complications that can be caused by sickle cell anemia, including stroke, acute chest syndrome, pulmonary hypertension, organ damage, blindness, leg ulcers, gallstones, and priapism.
How can CBD be used to help with Sickle Cell Anemia?
While CBD doesn’t have the potential to cure sickle cell anemia, for many it can offer relief from some of the most common and hard to manage symptoms of this disease.
Our bodies’ endocannabinoid systems help regulate various physiological functions, including our response to pain sensations. Because CBD (Cannabidiol) interacts with our natural cannabinoid receptors, it can work to eliminate the inflammation and difficult to treat pain that plague those suffering from sickle cell anemia.
Due to the pain and/or anxiety associated with this disorder, some people with sickle cell anemia have trouble falling asleep. CBD has been shown to help regulate sleep patterns as well as potentially alleviate anxiety and even help with depression. When dealing with a disease that can be as physically and emotionally draining sickle cell anemia, this can be a major morale booster.
What are the risks of using CBD for Sickle Cell Anemia?
One of the great things about CBD is that it is widely considered be safe, well-tolerated, and–according to a recent study by the World Health Organization–is not associated with abuse potential. Because sickle cell can result in chronic pain as well as anxiety, and we all know about the prescription drug addiction crisis currently gripping our nation, this can’t be overstated.
Using CBD for sickle cell anemia symptoms also comes with very few potential side effects, and those that can present are both rare and minor.
Should I give CBD for Sickle Cell Anemia a try?
The evidence we’ve gathered seems to support the benefits of CBD for managing some of the hard to treat symptoms of sickle cell anemia. Because symptoms vary in both frequency and severity so greatly, it’s also important to pay close attention to your body and how you feel before and after using CBD for sickle cell anemia. This will help nail down the proper dosage for optimal results.
It’s also important to note that while CBD may help manage some of the symptoms of sickle cell, it cannot cure this disease and does not modify the shape, quantity or quality of affected red blood cells.
As with any change to your healthcare regimen, you should talk to your doctor before trying CBD for sickle cell anemia. And, if you’re currently taking any prescription medications, you should check with your pharmacist to ensure that CBD won’t interact with any of them in a negative way.