Medical Marijuana and Nail-Patella Syndrome
Medical marijuana cannot treat the actual disorder as it is genetic and incurable. However, it can help with many of the associated complications. The most common use of medical cannabis for NPS is pain management due to the pain and discomfort the physical abnormalities of the syndrome cause. Many with NPS turn to opioids or other pain killers to manage their pain levels. These may lead to kidney problems, which is an increased concern for those with NPS as they may already have kidney complications. Medical marijuana can offer pain relief without risk of addiction or harm to the kidneys.
What is Nail-Patella Syndrome?
Nail-patella syndrome (NPS) is a rare genetic disorder that results in abnormalities in the fingernails, toenails, joints, kidneys, and bones of those who have it. Almost all those affected by the syndrome have missing or abnormal nails at birth. Their nails often have a triangular base instead of a crescent moon-shaped base and they may have missing, split, pitted, or underdeveloped nails.
NPS can often be identified in infants before they are even born via ultrasonography or ultrasound. Missing kneecaps or iliac spurs are usually the warning signs that alert doctors to this syndrome in utero. NPS may also be diagnosed throughout a person’s life through analysis of family history, clinical evaluation, or imaging tests such as MRI, CT scan, or X-ray.
NPS affects each sufferer in different ways. Depending on how severe the condition is, patients may experience complications such as increased risk of fractures, scoliosis, impaired sensation, glaucoma, gastrointestinal issues, chronic pain, or kidney problems.
What Causes Nail Patella Syndrome?
NPS is a genetic syndrome that is inherited in an autosomal-dominant pattern. This means that only one parent needs to have a copy of the mutated gene to pass the syndrome on to their children. Those who have NPS are born with it and individuals cannot develop NPS later in life or catch it from others.
Nail-Patella Syndrome Symptoms
The most common symptoms of NPS affect the nails, kneecaps, elbows, and hip bones. Many of those with NPS have kneecaps that are absent, small, or shaped irregularly leading to early-onset arthritis or kneecap dislocation. Many also have issues with one or both elbows as they often do not develop correctly and have trouble fully extending their elbows or rotating the lower part of their arm.
70% of those with NPS have changes in the pelvic bones known as iliac horns that can be seen on x-rays. These are small pointy growths that usually do not cause any health issues. Those with NPS are also prone to increased eye pressure. It can lead to glaucoma and 30-50% of those with NPS have kidney disease, in rare cases, leading to kidney failure. Long known for its ability to reduce eye pressure, medical cannabis can fight the onset of glaucoma. For those who have already developed glaucoma, marijuana’s neuroprotective properties, ability to decrease blood pressure, and ability to treat pain are also helpful.
Medical cannabis is also proven to lower the risk of kidney disease due to its ability to lower inflammation and reduce oxidative stress. This promotes tissue repair and helps the body detoxify itself. If a sufferer of NPS is experiencing kidney failure, medical cannabis can increase their appetite, add healthy weight, and reduce spasms.
Less common symptoms of the syndrome include IBS, constipation, reduced sensitivity to hot or cold, burning sensations in the hands or feet, and weak or crumbling teeth. The symptoms vary widely and no two NPS sufferers will have the exact same symptoms even if they are in the same family.
Swollen and inflamed joints are a common issue for those with NPS. Cannabis – especially those strains high in THC – has anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce swelling and increase function.
Methods of Medical Cannabis Treatment for Nail-Patella Syndrome
There are a variety of ways for NPS sufferers to take medical marijuana depending on their personal preferences and the laws in their state. The most common way is by smoking it or using a vape device to provide quick relief. Some patients prefer other methods, though, such as edibles, tinctures, topicals, pills, or oils. These can be more discreet than smoking or vaping and can be used in public areas where smoking is not legal. To find out which method is best for each patient, some experimentation or consultation with an educated dispensary employee is needed.
Possible Side Effects of Medical Marijuana
Medical marijuana has far fewer side effects than opioids and many other prescription drugs. However, individual patients react differently to various types and strains of cannabis. Possible side effects include drowsiness, paranoia, dry mouth, diarrhea, increased heart rate, anxiety, hunger, red eyes, insomnia, impaired balance, and dizziness. Changing the dose, strain, or method of delivery can often reduce or eliminate these effects. If side effects prevent a patient from taking the marijuana, he or she should speak with a licensed medical marijuana doctor or dispensary staff member for advice.