Mysterious Marijuana-Related Illness Often Misdiagnosed: What Are Its Symptoms?
Cases of a newly recognized illness related to marijuana use have been increasing in hospital emergency rooms, particularly in states that legalized use of cannabis.
Illness Shows Up In Increasing Frequency
Experts believe that the illness known as cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, or CHS, is associated with heavy and long-term use of marijuana. One study has shown that cases of the illness nearly doubled in the emergency rooms of two hospitals in Colorado after medical marijuana became legally accessible in the state.
Despite the increasing frequency of CHS cases in emergency rooms, experts said that it remains unclear how many people suffer from the illness because not everyone who suffers from it get medical help from the hospital.
A Relatively Unknown Illness
Many marijuana users and even some doctors are not even aware of the illness because it has only been recognized a few years ago. The syndrome was first documented in 2004 but the symptoms have not always been recognized.
As a result of the illness not being relatively known, doctors in states that have not yet legalized cannabis often fail to give CHS sufferers the right diagnosis.
"The biggest problem we've seen with this disease is that until now, it's been unrecognized and therefore, these people are suffering longer than they need to," said Kennon Heard, from the University of Colorado Hospital, who also studies the effects of CHS.
Symptoms Of CHS
The illness is characterized by severe abdominal pain and violent vomiting, which can be mistaken for something else, making it difficult for physicians to give the right diagnosis when patients, especially those living in states that have not yet legalized cannabis, deny using marijuana.
The illness though has a bizarre characteristic. Many doctors are initially stumped when they encounter people who have the problem because for some reason, the vomiting and nausea can be relieved when patients take hot showers or baths. This odd way on how people relieve the symptoms provides doctors a hint that CHS is to blame for the severe nausea and abdominal pain.
Patients Advised To Seek Medical Help Immediately
CHS can be severe and may last for months. Doctors advise those who think they are experiencing symptoms of the illness to visit a doctor immediately because CHS in its severe form can cause dehydration and kidney problems if it is left unchecked.
Most Effective Treatment For CHS
Heard explained that patients are typically given IV fluids and medication to resolve the vomiting and relieve the pain, but the most effective treatment is to stop the use of weed or cut back severely. Peter Williams who have been sent to hospital numerous times because of CHS said that the symptoms stopped when he stopped using marijuana. The symptoms returned when he started using weed again.
What Causes CHS
It is not yet clear how marijuana use can trigger symptoms of CHS but experts said it is possible that people who use marijuana frequently and in high doses experience changes in the body's receptors, which somehow became dysregulated and start causing pain.