Dravet syndrome is perhaps not a household word for many people, but for the families it impacts, the effects can be devastating. This cognitive disease affects around 1 out of every 20,000 infants born, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. It tends to manifest around five to eight months of age, beginning as multiple onsets of seizures related to fevers. These are followed by other forms of seizures, problems sleeping, having hyperactivity and attention difficulties, and trouble acquiring motor, language, and social skills. In the worst cases, a constant, persistent seizure known as status epilepticus can occur, as well as death. Although some children experience a partial alleviation of symptoms after five years of age, the majority require live-in caregivers by the time they reach adulthood.
In addition to the constant risk of seizure, along with other developmental and emotional disorders that tend to occur alongside Dravet syndrome, treatment poses a problem of its own. Many drugs that might be used for similar conditions, like carbamazepine, gabapentin, and phenytoin, cannot be used in Dravet syndrome because they actually increase the seizure risk. While other drugs may be prescribed based on the patient, there may be a need for other regimens, including diet and supplementation.
If you know a bit about cannabidiol (CBD), you might suspect that it could potentially work for Dravet syndrome. As we’ve touched on before, it has shown effects in both human and animal studies on epilepsy. Rubio et al. (2016) performed a randomized controlled trial administering cannabidiol to 15 treatment patients and placebos to ten control patients. The treatment patients showed reduced seizure rates after CBD administration. The researchers’ genetic analysis also found that cannabinoid (CB) type-2 gene expression was increased significantly, leading them to conclude that Dravet syndrome’s causes might lie in inflammatory reactions that attack the brain, but that would normally be prevented by people with functioning endocannabinoid systems.
Other studies seem to point in the same direction. Wirrell (2016) reported on two trials where CBD was administered to medication-resistant people with Dravet syndrome. In one of the trials, performed by a pharmaceutical firm, 39% of people who received CBD along with their usual medication showed monthly reductions in seizures, compared to 16% in a placebo group. In the other study Wirrell (2016) described, administration of CBD oil to people with Dravet syndrome decreased the total average frequency of seizures by 63%, while 16% of the patients experienced no symptoms at all. More research must be done to confirm these results and ensure they can be generalized to others. For people suffering from Dravet syndrome, though, future studies might herald breakthroughs with how this disease is understood and treated.
If you or one of your loved ones has Dravet syndrome, medical care may be a consistent need. However, you might also experience positive changes through supplementation with CBD, especially in conjunction with the right dietary regimen. One option is to use topicals for worn-out or pained muscles. Other possibilities include calming teas or delectable edibles to make the CBD easy for anyone to use.
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