Lennox Gastaut Syndrome

Can medical cannabis help with the symptoms of Lennox Gastaut Syndrome? Find out more below. 

What is Lennox Gastaut Syndrome?

Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) is a rare and severe form of epilepsy that usually begins in early childhood, between the ages of 3 and 5. It is characterized by multiple seizure types, cognitive impairment, and abnormal electroencephalogram (EEG) patterns. LGS is often resistant to treatment with antiepileptic medications and can significantly impact the quality of life of affected individuals and their families.

What causes Lennox Gastaut Syndrome?

The exact cause of LGS is unknown in most cases, but it is believed to be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some cases of LGS are caused by genetic mutations that affect the development and function of the brain. In other cases, LGS may be caused by brain damage before or after birth, such as a brain infection, injury, or stroke. In some cases, the cause of LGS is unknown, and the condition is considered idiopathic.

LGS can also be associated with other medical conditions, such as cerebral palsy, autism, and developmental delay. Individuals with LGS need to receive a thorough medical evaluation from identifying any underlying conditions or contributing factors that may be present.

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a chronic brain disorder that causes recurring seizures. You may be diagnosed with epilepsy if you have two unprovoked attacks or one unprovoked seizure, but not all episodes result from epilepsy. Seizures may relate to a brain injury or genetic trait, but the cause is often unknown. 

What is a seizure?

Seizures are surges of abnormal and excessive electrical activity in your brain and can change your appearance or actions. They can cause significant harm to the body if they occur at the wrong place or time. 

Are there Signs & Symptoms?

Yes, the signs and symptoms of Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) can vary from person to person but typically include the following:

• Frequent and multiple types of seizures, including tonic seizures (stiffening of the muscles), atonic seizures (sudden loss of muscle tone), and atypical absence seizures (brief loss of consciousness)

• Cognitive impairment and developmental delays, including difficulties with learning, memory, and problem-solving

• Abnormal EEG patterns, such as slow spike-and-wave or multiple spike-and-wave discharges

• Behavioral and psychiatric problems, such as aggression, hyperactivity, and anxiety

• Physical symptoms, such as muscle stiffness, balance problems, and difficulty with coordination

• Sleep disturbances and nighttime seizures

• Increased risk of injuries due to seizures, such as falls, burns, and drowning

Not all individuals with LGS will experience all of these symptoms, and the severity of symptoms can vary from mild to severe. If you suspect that you or someone you know may have LGS, seeking medical attention and evaluation by a qualified healthcare professional is essential.

Diagnosis & Treatment Options

Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS) diagnosis is typically based on a combination of clinical symptoms, EEG findings, and medical history. A thorough neurological examination and imaging studies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and blood tests may be performed to rule out other possible causes of seizures and cognitive impairment. In addition, a comprehensive evaluation of developmental, behavioral, and psychiatric issues may be needed to identify any underlying conditions contributing to the symptoms.

There is no cure for LGS, and treatment aims to manage symptoms and reduce the frequency and severity of seizures. Treatment options for LGS may include:

• Antiepileptic medications: Medications such as valproic acid, lamotrigine, topiramate, and clobazam may be prescribed to control seizures. However, many individuals with LGS may not respond well to these medications, and other options may need to be considered.

• Ketogenic diet: A high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet known as the ketogenic diet effectively reduces seizures in some individuals with LGS. This diet should only be used under close medical supervision.

• Vagus nerve stimulation: A vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) device may be implanted under the skin in the chest to help reduce seizures by sending electrical impulses to the brain.

• Epilepsy surgery: In some cases, surgery to remove the part of the brain causing seizures may be considered, although this is a rare option for individuals with LGS.

• Supportive care: Individuals with LGS may require supportive care to manage associated symptoms, such as physical therapy to improve muscle strength and coordination, speech therapy to improve communication skills, and counseling to address behavioral and emotional issues.

The specific treatment plan for LGS will depend on the individual’s symptoms, medical history, and response to treatment. It is essential to work closely with a qualified healthcare professional to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses all aspects of the condition.

Can medical cannabis help? 

Medical marijuana has been shown to help patients with epilepsy relieve and control the symptoms accompanying this brain condition. Cannabidiol CBD is commonly used for various therapeutic benefits, from digestive aids to helping calm mental disorder symptoms. CBD’s benefits have been shown to have positive effects in regulating seizures. The FDA has approved CBD as a prescription-strength (Epidiolex) medication used for certain forms of epilepsy. 

The FDA approved a prescription-strength dose of CBD for severe epilepsy, Epidiolex oral solution, from G.W. Pharmaceuticals. Preclinical evidence proves CBD oil can treat symptoms and reduce seizures by activating the CB1 receptors. More research is being done on CBD oil for conditions like dravet syndrome and Lennox gastaut syndrome.

Evidence suggests that medical marijuana may help reduce seizures and improve the quality of life for some individuals with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS). However, more research is needed to fully understand the potential benefits and risks of using medical marijuana to treat LGS.

The American Academy of Neurology has released a position statement on using medical marijuana to treat neurological disorders, including epilepsy. According to this statement, there is limited evidence to support the use of medical marijuana in treating epilepsy, including LGS. However, some studies have suggested that cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive component of marijuana, may help reduce seizures in some individuals with LGS.

Medical marijuana is not legal in all states and countries, and there are potential risks and side effects associated with its use. Individuals considering medical marijuana as a treatment option for LGS should discuss the potential benefits and risks with a qualified healthcare professional and comply with applicable laws and regulations. Additionally, remember that medical marijuana should not be used as a first-line treatment for LGS and should only be considered after other treatment options have been tried and found ineffective.

Last Updated: July 25, 2023

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