One of the symptoms of scleroderma is the formation of painful ulcers on the fingers. These ulcers are often difficult to manage; they do not respond well to treatment and healing, leading many people to feel that their quality-of-life (QOL) is lesser. However, shares Scleroderma News, a study suggests that topical cannabidiol could significantly benefit these patients by improving wound healing in those with systemic sclerosis (also known as systemic scleroderma). This type of scleroderma—the systemic form—affects both the skin and the organs.
Evaluating a New Therapeutic Option
In the study, which was published in Advances in Skin & Wound Care, the research team sought to understand whether topical cannabidiol (CBD) was more effective in healing and pain relief than the typical standards-of-care, which include opioids and anti-inflammatory treatments. Cannabidiol is an active ingredient in cannabis, but does not have psychoactive properties like THC. Learn more about cannabidiol.
Altogether, 45 people with systemic scleroderma enrolled in the study. A large majority were female. Participants had previously tried opioid therapy but were resistant to treatment. During the trial, participants received either topical CBD with Cannabis sativa seed oil or a placebo. This was administered each day for an approximate two-month period.
The study results found that:
- Patients reported improved QOL after topical CBD treatment.
- Topical CBD significantly reduced wound pain and pain from cleaning, dressing, or treating the wound. Alternately, patients receiving the placebo (control group) had pain levels increase.
- Additionally, topical CBD helped to improve the amount that patients were allowed to sleep per night.
- 72% of those receiving topical CBD saw ulcers which completely healed, as compared to 30% in the control group.
- No patients receiving topical CBD experienced infection, whereas six patients in the control group had wound infections.
- Despite topical CBD treatment, some patients still required additional pain management tools. However, this group was significantly smaller than the control group.
- Mild side effects – itchiness and wound redness – were reported.
An Overview of Scleroderma
Scleroderma refers to a group of rare conditions which result in the hardening and tightening of skin and connective tissues. Localized refers to sclerosis which affects only one or a few spots, typically on the skin; systemic may be found throughout the body. Scleroderma results from excess collagen production but doctors aren’t sure why this occurs. Symptoms can include:
- Hardened or tightened patches of skin
- Areas of skin that look tight and shiny
- Dry mouth
- Restricted movement
- Acid reflux
- Joint stiffness
- Ulceration or painful lumps under the skin, particular on the fingers
- Poor nutrient absorption
- Raynaud’s phenomenon
- Hair loss
- Dry, itchy skin
This is not an exhaustive list of symptoms. Treatment options include immune modulators and proton pump inhibitors, among others. No cure exists for scleroderma.