Cannabinoids in the treatment of endometriosis

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Barbara Arranz

Study shows benefits of the plant for patients with the disease

5 minutes read
Find out what a recent study says about the use of cannabis cannabinoids in the treatment of women suffering from endometriosis. How can the plant help? Find out in the article below!

According to the WHO, more than 176 million women around the world suffer from endometriosis. This disease is considered the major cause of female infertility, leading 30 to 50% of patients to this state.

In Brazil, endometriosis affects about 10% of the country's adult female population, according to the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa). According to the WHO, more than 7 million Brazilians suffer from the disease. In 2019 alone, the government recorded 11,790 hospitalizations because of the disease.

The biggest challenge for reducing severe cases of endometriosis is diagnosis. The picture of the disease is usually silent at first and the symptoms are easily confused with those of other gynecological paternity.

There is no consensus on the causes of the disease, but doctors work with multiple possibilities. 51% of cases are attributed to genetic factors. The current pace of life, late pregnancy and stress are also identified as risk factors.

Next, you will understand what endometriosis is, what treatments are available, and how scientists are studying the use of cannabinoids in marijuana in the treatment of women suffering from the disease.

What is endometriosis and what causes this disease?

Endometriosis is a disease caused by infection or injury resulting from the accumulation of cells that line the inside of the uterus (the endometrium) elsewhere outside the uterine cavity.

Such cells are usually shed along with menstruation. The problem is that in some women these cells end up accumulating in other parts of the body , especially in regions such as the bladder, ovaries, fallopian tubes and intestine, causing tissues to grow.

This dysregulation causes endometriosis and leads to severe pain in women. In more severe cases, it can form nodules and affect the functioning of Organs affected organs.

More complex cases can lead the woman to need to undergo surgery to remove the nodules and, often, removal of the uterus and other organs of the female reproductive system.

According to Helizabet Salomão Ayrosa Ribeiro, vice president of the Brazilian Association of Endometriosis and Minimally Invasive Gynecology (SBE), the delay in diagnosis is the main factor that leads the disease to progress to a serious condition that requires more radical surgeries.

“Worldwide, endometriosis takes an average of seven to ten years to be diagnosed. Mainly due to the tendency of people to naturalize menstrual cramps, the main symptom and main complaint of patients”, he explained in an interview with Agência Brasil.

Severe and frequent cramping, pain in the lower back and abdomen, pain in the rectum, vagina or pelvis, discomfort and pain during intercourse and irregular menstruation are the main symptoms of endometriosis.

Many women associate these symptoms with normal menstrual period conditions, but this is not always the case. It is important to visit the gynecologist frequently and report everything that is going on .

To diagnose the disease, the gynecologist may order a specialized endovaginal ultrasound, a gynecological exam and laboratory tests such as the dosage of markers.

How is endometriosis treated?

The treatment of endometriosis will depend on the stage of the disease. Usually the doctor starts prescribing a contraceptive for the woman, because it is necessary to interrupt the menstrual cycle. The use of these drugs should be done continuously.

Other actions may involve the use of progestins alone, injectable hormones, or implantation of an IUD.

Such measures tend to stop the endometriosis frame, but do not remove the tissues already created. If it is necessary to remove them and treat the lesions more intensively, an alternative is to perform a laparoscopy, a small, minimally invasive surgery .

Laparoscopy consists of making small incisions in the abdominal region to introduce the laparoscope, an equipment with an integrated micro camera that allows direct visualization of the peritoneal cavity. Other surgical instruments can also be introduced, such as tweezers, scissors or staplers, which allow manipulation of the affected region.

Major surgeries to remove nodules and remove organs from the female apparatus are only indicated in severe cases where there is no way to treat the disease in any other way.

Study indicates that cannabis can be used to treat endometriosis

According to the article Modifying effects of natural THC on pain associated with endometriosis , recently published by the Laboratory of Neuropharmacology at the Pompeu Fabra University in Spain, cannabis (especially the cannabinoid THC) was found to be effective both in decreasing pain caused by endometriosis. (which can be severe) and in controlling the development of endometrial cysts.

The study was done with mice. According to the scientists who are leading the research, what explains the possible effectiveness of cannabinoids in the treatment of endometriosis is that the female pelvic region has many receptors sensitive to cannabinoids, potentiating the action of these substances.

It is worth remembering that all human beings have an Endocannabinoid System, a pair of receptors that react to the components of cannabis . Called CB1 and CB2, these receptors are present in the brain and spread throughout the body, which helps to explain the medicinal power of marijuana in the treatment of various diseases .

“[…] chronic administration of a moderate dose of the phytocannabinoid THC alleviates the mechanical hypersensitivity of the caudal abdominal region, painful discomfort and cognitive impairment associated with the presence of ectopic endometrial cysts. These behavioral manifestations correlate with a decrease in the size of the ectopic endometrium in mice exposed to THC.

The author continues:

"THC also induced an increase in markers of uterine innervation in sham (healthy) animals, but prevented such changes in mice with endometriosis, again suggesting different effects of THC in chronic inflammatory conditions."

The scientists' goal is to improve the quality of life of women suffering from endometriosis, decreasing their pain through a natural solution (cannabis) and reducing the need to use synthetic hormones (which can have side effects for women).

"Based on our results, we plan to initiate clinical trials to provide evidence on the ability to translate these results for women with endometriosis," the article concludes.

That more studies are carried out and medical cannabis can serve as a basis to help millions of women around the world to face endometriosis with less pain and consequences.

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