Medical Marijuana vs Glaucoma

Glaucoma is the result of a number of diseases that lead to the damage of the optic nerve. The optic nerve is what sends signals to the brain on what the eye is seeing. While most types of glaucoma include increased pressure in the fluid of the eye, there are also types of glaucoma that do not include increased eye pressure. A comprehensive eye exam is necessary to identify diseases of the eyes. The increased pressure in the eye is a major factor in producing damage to the eye, specifically the optic nerve. If glaucoma is not addressed, it could result in permanent damage to a person’s eyesight. 

While anyone can develop glaucoma, there are three groups with a higher risk: African Americans over 40; everyone over 60, especially Mexican Americans; and those with a family history of glaucoma.

The National Eye Institute details a number of conventional treatments for glaucoma, including a variety of medicines, laser surgery, and conventional surgery that creates new drainage routes. All of these have major and minor side effects that can negatively affect quality of life.

Cannabis has been proven to have a positive effect in lowering intraocular pressure (IOP) with primary open angle glaucoma (POAG), the most common type of glaucoma. Cannabis reduces the pressure in the eye for 3 to 4 hours after having been inhaled, or longer with edibles and vapor treatments.

There is some disagreement on whether cannabis is an effective method for treating specific types of glaucoma. Those opposed to its use cite the 3 to 4 hour effect of reduced eye pressure after smoking cannabis and potential negative side effects from inhaling the smoke. Proponents detail how cannabis can now be consumed a number of ways that increase the positive effects while reducing side effects. The end result of the information is that generally speaking, cannabis is no better or worse than other conventional treatments given the benefits, risks, and side effects.

However, a number of glaucoma patients relate how conventional treatments either failed to help them or that the conventional medications lost their effectiveness over time. Cannabis is a proven treatment in reducing eye pressure consistently over time.

The American Glaucoma Society offers additional hope in promising studies on topical treatments and the positive aspect of cannabinoids in protecting nerve cells like those in the eyes. These studies are on-going, but suggest that cannabis can be used as a protective treatment in addition to previously known benefits for treating glaucoma. 

As with any treatment for diseases, patients should consult with their physician on the best treatment for addressing glaucoma. Each individual is different, and it is important to begin with a comprehensive eye exam to fully understand potential eye diseases. The use of cannabis for the treatment of glaucoma has been studied since the 1970s with proven results for specific types of glaucoma. How it will work for you depends on your own needs and lifestyle choices.

For more information visit the American Glaucoma Society.

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