It’s called cannabis arteritis. And for the first time in Australia, a man has been diagnosed with this rare cannabis-related disease.
The 26-year-old Frankston, Australia man, who uses cannabis daily, acquired a rare condition that prevented a nasty wound on his big toe from healing.
The patient admitted to using upwards of 1 gram of marijuana a day. He was sent to the hospital when an ulcer on his toe failed to stop bleeding.
Doctors soon diagnosed the man with a rare condition they say is linked to his daily use of cannabis.
Surgeon David Soon identified the disease as “cannabis arteritis.” He said the man’s daily marijuana use created a build-up of plaque around and the blood vessels in his big toe.
Using cannabis, which is a “vasodilator,” can cause the blood vessels in your body to widen. THC acts as a smooth muscle relaxer, relaxing the walls of the arteries, which can result in lower blood pressure and increased blood flow to the tissues.
This additional blood-flow increases the amount of plaque that deposits itself around the walls of the artery. The plaque makes the artery narrow and in turn increases pressure and resistance.
Although it is a highly rare condition, cannabis arteritis is caused by long-term daily marijuana use. The disease results in lesions that grow on the arteries, leading to ulcers or other problems.
What is Cannabis Arteritis
The main causes of arteriopathy in young patients include drugs, metabolic diseases, pseudoxanthoma elasticum and Buerger’s disease. Arteritis due to Cannabis indica was first reported in 1960, and the role of this drug as a risk factor for arteritis was confirmed in several subsequent publications.
A 38-year-old smoker with no previous contributory medical history except for long-standing cannabis abuse developed a dry necrotic lesion of the left big toe.
Imaging examinations revealed proximal arteriopathy of the lower limbs that predominated on the left side. He had no atherogenic or thrombogenic risk factors, and no signs of pseudoxanthoma elasticum were found. Remarkably, the development of arteritis paralleled cannabis abuse.
The course was slowly favourable after weaning from the drug, vasodilator treatment and hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Despite some subtle clinical differences (more proximal than distal involvement), cannabis arteritis may be considered as a particular form of Buerger’s disease, where cannabis, along with tobacco, seems to cause arterial lesions.
Along with the noxious effects of cannabis on vessels, a role for contaminating arsenic is also possible. Cannabis arteritis is not widely known, but may prove not to be so rare if one considers consumption of cannabis besides that of tobacco.
At it’s worst, cannabis arteritis can lead to limb amputation. If caught early enough, the disease can be treated with balloon catheters. But patients still need to take aspirin for the rest of their life.
“Although this is a rare condition, this illness should be known and made aware to physicians around Australia,” Soon said.
If you’re a daily cannabis user, make sure you know the signs of this rare disease. Cannabis arteritis mostly affects men. The most common symptom was bleeding toe wounds that wouldn’t heal.
Surgeon Soon warned that medical professions should make sure to be especially alert for the condition. Since medical cannabis has recently been legalized in Australia, Soon worries the disease will become more common.
“Due to the increase in cannabis usage and the legalization of medicinal marijuana, awareness of this condition is critical and may become a growing problem in the future,” Soon told Stuff NZ