There was a time when people correlated marijuana and the eyes only with dryness, redness and dilated pupils. Time (and some very pinpointed research) has indeed changed this perception for the better.Read more »
Glaucoma is a condition caused by increased pressure within the eye, which can cause blindness if it is not promptly treated. Glaucoma can be painful and since vision lost to this disease can never be regained, it is important for patients to treat glaucoma and slow or stop its progress. Because there is no cure for glaucoma, treatments for this disease, usually medicated eye drops, focus on trying to decrease the pressure within the eye. These drops may cause blurred vision, stinging or pain, and may be ineffective. Patients for whom standard treatments do not work have reported success using medical marijuana to treat their glaucoma.
How Medical Marijuana Works for Glaucoma
Smoking medical marijuana lowers the pressure within the eye that causes the damage characterizing glaucoma. This effect lasts for about three to four hours. Because of this, many patients combine medical marijuana with a standard treatment for their glaucoma. Medical marijuana is extremely effective at fighting certain symptoms of glaucoma:
- Researchers have found that the body’s natural endocannabinoid system plays a role in protecting the body from symptoms of neural diseases like glaucoma, indicating that activating the endocannabinoid system in glaucoma patients (such as by smoking medical marijuana) can be a helpful treatment (Potential roles of (endo)cannabinoids in the treatment of glaucoma, Nucci, C., et al.)
- The cannabinoids in medical marijuana may work in several different ways to stop the progressive degeneration caused by glaucoma, including suppressing the damaged eye cells’ ability to excite other cells and cause further damage, improving inter-eye circulation, and preventing damage by foreign bodies or tissues (Cannabinoids in the treatment of glaucoma, Järvinen, T., et al.)
- The increased pressure on the eye caused by glaucoma is the only direct symptom that standard glaucoma medications can treat, so access to alternative treatments like medical marijuana that can treat other symptoms are important (Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma, Sharts-Hopko, N.C. and Glyn-Milley, C.)
- Medical marijuana with higher levels of THC may work better for glaucoma patients, since THC appears to have a more measurable reducing effect on eye pressure than CBD alone (Effect of Sublingual Application of Cannabinoids on Intraocular Pressure, Tomida, I., et al.)
It is the cannabinoids, compounds unique to marijuana, present in medical marijuana that treat the symptoms of glaucoma. It is therefore important to use medical marijuana in a way that maximizes the delivery of cannabinoids to the body. Methods to do this include:
- Smoking medical marijuana, such as in a joint/cannabis cigarette or pipe
- Using vaporizing equipment to inhale the cannabinoids without smoke
- Preparing medical marijuana in a food item that contains fat, such as butter or other edibles
Glaucoma is a serious disease that can cause blindness in up to 10% of patients even when it is caught and treated early. Standard treatments are not always desirable and not always as effective as alternative treatments like medical marijuana. Since the cannabinoids present in marijuana are proven to reduce inter-eye pressure and other symptoms, glaucoma patients may wish to discuss medical marijuana as a potential treatment with their health care provider.