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Can Cannabis Help with Glaucoma?

By Danyal Swan September 25, 2021

Glaucoma is a serious eye condition that causes damage to the optic nerve, the major nerve that transmits signals between the eyes and brain. This damage reduces vision quality and can even lead to irreversible blindness. In fact, the World Health Organization and other international groups rate glaucoma as the second leading cause of permanent blindness in the world.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for glaucoma. It is a condition glaucoma patients must live with for the rest of their lives. As a result, doctors and specialists have been working for decades to answer the question: “What is good for glaucoma?” With newly developed treatments, there is hope in providing therapeutic relief for glaucoma patients.

In the 1970s, researchers began to ask the question, “Can cannabis help with glaucoma?” Now, there is some evidence that suggests it just might.

What Causes Glaucoma?

A common misunderstanding regarding glaucoma is that it is a problem only elderly people experience. The truth is, anyone can experience glaucoma regardless of age. Most cases of glaucoma result from excess pressure inside the eye, also called elevated intraocular pressure, or IOP. This excess pressure can occur in a wide range of individuals, causing poor vision and even complete blindness in up to ten percent of patients.

Drainage canals within the eye itself work to alleviate any excess pressure that may occur, keeping the eye at a consistent, healthy pressure for normal vision. However, in glaucoma patients, these drainage canals became slow and ineffective, leading to increased IOP. Most glaucoma treatments attempt to release the excess pressure, which can limit or halt the damage to the vital parts of the eye and optic nerve that handle vision. 

The two major types of glaucoma include open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma progresses very slowly, exerting damage on the optic nerve over many years in some instances. In many cases, people may not even be aware that they have glaucoma, as it causes no pain or immediate symptoms. By contrast, angle-closure glaucoma develops very quickly, and the symptoms are noticeable almost immediately. Acute angle-closure glaucoma is an emergency since immediate treatment can reduce the chances of blindness or vision impairment. Despite how quickly treatment is sought, individuals can only control, not cure, both forms of glaucoma.

CBD and Glaucoma

MÜV offers a variety of cannabis-derived CBD products.

As mentioned, during the 1970s and 80s, initial research suggested that products made from the cannabis plant may help to alleviate increased pressure in the eye. Findings hinted at some exciting possibilities for the treatment of glaucoma. Unfortunately, much of this research never concluded, but some of the latest information is encouraging scientists to give cannabis studies a second look. 

Cannabinoids, extracts derived from the Cannabis plant, include compounds like THC or purified CBD. These compounds are likely the elements of cannabis that previously had positive effects on eye pressure. Researchers are once again conducting experiments with various forms of cannabinoids, including THC extracts and CBD oils. They are asking the very same question their predecessors did in the 70’s and the 80’s: “Is CBD good for glaucoma?”

Cannabinoids and Eye Pressure Reduction

Tissues found in the eye, also known as ocular tissue, are responsible for the process of regulating IOP. Researchers have noted an abundance of receptors for cannabinoid compounds within certain ocular tissues. This may suggest that cannabinoids could help regulate eye pressure.

Patients report that cannabinoids have a positive effect on the elevated IOP that causes glaucoma. Many researchers agree that, when administered correctly, cannabinoids appear to have neuroprotective properties that can control glaucoma symptoms. While it is still unclear which specific mechanisms allow cannabinoids to alleviate IOP, many scientists suspect that the anti-inflammatory properties of these compounds may help to decrease eye pressure.

More scientific research is ongoing to help scientists better understand how to use cannabis to treat glaucoma. As a result, the potential for widespread cannabis treatments to combat glaucoma has excited many people who have believed for years that CBD oil alleviates their symptoms. Now, science suggests that they may have been right all along. Currently, CBD oil and other cannabis products remain an interesting possibility to treat a condition that has had serious impacts on so many people around the world.

Can You Use Edibles for Glaucoma?

Marijuana edibles are a discreet way to medicate for long-lasting effects.

Since research is still ongoing, the evidence is not yet conclusive regarding the effective treatment of glaucoma with CBD or THC. However, many physicians consider cannabinoids a medically sound way to treat anxiety, nausea, and pain. If these symptoms are occurring as the result of your glaucoma, cannabis edibles may be able to help alleviate other conditions while you receive glaucoma treatment.

Studies have suggested that the best way to directly treat glaucoma with cannabis products is via cannabinoid eye drops. However, a problem unique to this method involves getting the eye’s surface to properly absorb special cannabinoid eye drops. Researchers found that beneficial cannabinoid compounds were difficult to administer through water-based eye drops, and eye drops made from oil were too irritating to the eyes. As a result, some researchers had formerly abandoned the idea of eye drops. However, new evidence has emerged that demonstrates new methods of absorption, leading researchers to renew their interest in cannabinoid eye drops. Currently, clinical trials are underway to test the efficacy of cannabinoid eye drops, and new products may soon reach the market.

The Future of Cannabis and Glaucoma

Much research still needs to occur to accurately assess the therapeutic relationship between cannabis and glaucoma. Currently, evidence is not conclusive that cannabis, CBD oils, or edibles can halt the degeneration of vision caused by glaucoma. However, reports from glaucoma patients and their physicians continue to show that there is promise in many cannabis-based treatments. 

With more states legalizing medical and recreational marijuana products, research labs are better able to experiment with cannabis for medical uses. As a result, more clinical trials and peer-reviewed research will explore all the exciting possibilities cannabinoids may have to help treat different ailments. In the future, researchers may find the means by which cannabis affects the presence of glaucoma and develop more effective treatments than ever before.

Speak to Your Ophthalmologist and Find a Medical Marijuana Dispensary Near You

Talk to your ophthalmologist today about incorporating CBD oil or other medical marijuana products into your treatment routine.

Whether you suspect you have glaucoma or are already living with its associated symptoms, it is critical to consult with and continue to see a licensed ophthalmologist for official diagnosis and treatment. However, after you have explored other treatment options, you may want to talk to your ophthalmologist about incorporating CBD oil or other products. Ophthalmologists who stay informed regarding the latest up-to-date research on glaucoma treatments may already anticipate the release of cannabis eye drops to provide relief for their patients.

A glaucoma diagnosis can be scary, even months or years after it occurs. However, as more people give testimony that cannabis products have either relieved their glaucoma symptoms or stopped its progression entirely, you can take comfort in the fact that new cannabis treatments are currently in development. There is still much to learn, but every day brings more knowledge, making cannabis treatment for this eye disease a very real possibility for a healthy future.

If you would like more information about the many forms of medical marijuana and how cannabinoids may help you, MUV can help. Our dispensaries offer only the highest quality marijuana products and have assisted countless patients in seeking the therapeutic effects they need. Visit a dispensary near you, or contact us today.

Content Manager for MÜV Florida and Contributor for Zen Leaf Dispensaries. A cannabis connoisseur with a passion for explaining the miraculous possibility of the plant, Swan began her journey with cannabis as a recreational user and quickly realized its positive impact on her depression and severe anxiety. She joined the cannabis industry as Receptionist and MedTender and witnessed first-hand the immense potential of the plant for a wide variety of ailments, deepening her passion for alternative medicine. Swan is dedicated to self-education on the plant and sharing its potential with all. She holds a Journalism degree from the University of Iowa.

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