Epilepsy is a medical condition that affects the brain. In epilepsy, sudden bursts of electrical activity in the brain cause fits. Here I tell you about some of the symptoms and how CBD may be used as an epilepsy treatment.
Epileptic Fits (Seizures)
The medical name for epileptic fits is seizures and they can cause different symptoms, depending on where in the brain the electrical disturbance happens.
Sometimes, only one side of the brain is affected; this is called a focal seizure. If you suffer a focal seizure you might, for example, feel numbness, tingling, or stiffness. You may have sudden strange feelings in your stomach or head, or perhaps see flashing lights or colours that aren’t really there. You might suffer an absence. This means that you become unaware of what you’re doing for a short time. Absences happen to children more than adults.
Seizures can also affect both sides of the brain at once. If this happens you will probably become unconscious for a few seconds or a few minutes. During the seizure your body might suddenly stiffen, go floppy or start jerking. When you become conscious again you won’t remember what happened. Seizures that affect both sides of your brain are called generalised onset seizures.
How CBD Can Reduce Seizures in Epilepsy
There are many studies that show CBD can help in the treatment of epilepsy. So how does it do this? In general, CBD eases inflammation and helps to protect and repair nerves. But it also has some very specific action that can reduce the frequency of seizures. You could say that it works in a similar way to conventional epilepsy medicines, because both treatments change the chemistry of the brain. Standard anti-epilepsy drugs alter the amounts of Sodium and Calcium, which also alters the electrical balance. CBD reduces the amount of (electrically charged) Calcium and this helps to calm the electrical activity in the brain.
CBD on Prescription for Epilepsy
In the USA, medics have been prescribing CBD as a treatment since 2018. In the UK, CBD has been available on prescription since January 2020. CBD is given on prescription as a liquid called Epidyolex or Epidiolex. In the UK it is recommended for use in two types of epilepsy:
- Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS). This severe type of epilepsy usually first appears in babies or young children. They may have several different types of seizure, as well as learning disabilities.
- Dravet Syndrome (DS). DS is a rare form of epilepsy that develops during a baby’s first year and continues throughout life. Apart from the seizures, which affect one side of the body, the baby is usually healthy. As the child gets older, he or she will probably begin to show learning disabilities and, in some cases, will crouch when walking.
In the US, Epidiolex has also been approved for use in Tuberous Sclerosis (TS). This illness is also rare and causes tumours to develop. The tumours are usually not cancerous and form in the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, eyes or skin. Although babies are born with the disease, the symptoms might not appear until later. As well as seizures, children with TS may develop learning disabilities, autistic spectrum disorder and hyperactivity.