The Truth About Marijuana And Glaucoma
Glaucoma is a debilitating disease with often-devastating side effects for those who experience it. Patients suffering from glaucoma frequently experience increased intraocular pressure- pressure to the optic nerve behind the eye- resulting in tunnel vision, redness and often blindness if left untreated. Smoking or consuming marijuana can help to lower the intraocular pressure, reducing pain and other symptoms associated with glaucoma and slowing the progress of the disease.
Glaucoma can be a lifelong disease for many people. We don’t know exactly what causes it, but we do know that over time, lack of adequate blood flow to the eye can cause nerve damage. Researchers have noticed that an increase in intraocular pressure combined with low blood pressure is the most common cause of glaucoma symptoms. When the body is unable to adjust blood pressure and flow properly, tissues begin to degrade and patients experience pain and loss of vision. Many patients do not realize that they have glaucoma until symptoms appear. Often the first sign of a problem is blurred vision or a loss of peripheral vision. Common treatments for glaucoma include eye drops, medications and surgery, all of which have varying success rates.
Eye drops are used to help lower the fluid production of the eye, thereby lowering the pressure to the optic nerve. When eye drops are not enough, a doctor may add pills to further decrease fluid production. If these measures are unsuccessful, surgery is often recommended. During surgery, doctors can permanently or temporarily relieve pressure inside the eye by draining excess fluid or by creating an extra duct through the sclera (the white part of the eye) so that fluid can drain more easily. Marijuana is an alternative treatment which may help patients manage the discomfort associated with glaucoma and temporarily lower their intraocular pressure.
Marijuana is not a cure for glaucoma. Smoking or consuming marijuana has been shown to lower the intraocular pressure for up to four hours, so in order to manage symptoms with cannabis alone, patients need to consume marijuana on a regular basis. Many patients prefer to use marijuana in conjunction with other treatments, such as eye drops or pills. This helps to manage both visual symptoms and pain. Not all glaucoma patients experience acute pain, but those who do often get a great deal of relief from cannabis or THC-derived drugs.
A study published in 1979 was one of the first to show the benefits of smoking marijuana for patients with high intraocular pressure. The researchers discovered that marijuana’s effects worked best among patients who had both high intraocular pressure and high blood pressure. The results of smoking lasted for 3-4 hours and both the intraocular pressure and blood pressure were significantly lowered. Another study published in 2000 used eye drops containing THC to treat high intraocular pressure. The study found that the eye drops did lower pressure inside the eye and showed promise for patients who wanted the therapeutic benefits of THC without the psychoactive side effects of smoking or eating marijuana.
Marijuana is an effective temporary treatment for many glaucoma patients, and it has the added benefit of offering relief from some of the more painful side effects of the disease. Some patients with advanced glaucoma experience severe eye pain which can lead to nausea, vomiting and loss of sleep, all of which can be managed with the use of cannabis. If you or someone you know is suffering from glaucoma, let them know that marijuana is a potential treatment option. Cannabis won’t cure the disease, but it can go a long way to making life easier and more comfortable. For more information about glaucoma and possible treatment options, check out The Glaucoma Foundation or the Glaucoma Research Foundation.