One of the many jobs of one of the many genes in our body is to produce proteins that protect muscle fibers from damage. When one of these genes doesn’t work correctly, it can cause muscular dystrophy. Different forms of the condition are determined by which gene, and corresponding area of the body, is effected. Common varieties present as tightness or weakness of the face and neck or difficulty walking.
Depending on the type of muscular dystrophy, symptoms may appear in childhood or not until later in adulthood. The most common form affects children, mainly boys. Some varieties may be inherited, but the gene mutation is often spontaneous, and it occurs in the womb for an unknown reason. Once mutated, the gene defect can be passed down to the next generation.
As the disease progresses, the muscles of the body all begin to grow weak, and over time, a patient may have difficulty walking. Tendons or muscles around the joints may begin to shorten, causing limited mobility, or the spine may curve as muscles become unable to hold it up straight. Eventually, patients may even find that they have trouble swallowing or breathing, and for some, a breathing machine, even if only worn at night, will help these symptoms. Over time their hearts may slow and begin to lose efficiency.
Although no cure is yet known, the progress of the disease can be slowed through medication and therapy. As with any progressive diseases, the goal is to halt its effects as early as possible. Physical therapy is one of the most effective treatments and has been shown to increase quality of life in numerous trials. In the few studies done of the subject, cannabis has also been shown to improve symptoms.
Medical marijuana can reduce pain and stiffness, and it increases anti-inflammatory activity. Both attributes can help patients continue physical therapy. In rare trials, smoking or vaporizing the marijuana has been shown to reduce pain and improve sleep. Unfortunately, more research has not been done, but Illinois dispensaries hear of more and more personal stories that attest to its effectiveness.
Although it cannot fix a genetic mutation, cannabis can reduce pain and perhaps even improve movement without the side effects caused by other drugs. Citizens of Illinois are beginning to recognize that marijuana has important medical uses and that it is time to take a civilized approach to the issue.