Cannabis for Glaucoma

 

A study entitled "Cannabinoids for Treatment of Glaucoma" that was published in the journal Current Opinion in Ophthalmology investigated the potential efficacy of cannabis and its constituent cannabinoids and terpenes in the treatment of glaucoma.


The Mayo Clinic reports that glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in those over 60. "Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, the health of which is vital for good vision. This damage is often caused by an abnormally high pressure in [the] eye," reported the Mayo Clinic. The loss of vision caused by glaucoma is not reversible. Thus, any slowing of the progress of this common disease in seniors is of great value to patients and their caregivers.


There are two primary types of glaucoma: Open-angle (the most common type that affects 95 percent of patients) and angle-closure. Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness among African Americans and Hispanics in the United States.


According to the BrightFocus Foundation, a Maryland-based medical research funding organization, more than three million Americans live with glaucoma. "In 2020, about 80 million people had glaucoma worldwide; this number is expected to increase to over 111 million by 2040," reported the group.


The study purpose was "to review the current status of cannabis in the treatment of glaucoma, including the greater availability of marijuana in the USA." Interestingly, the study noted that the potency of cannabis has increased during the past half century. "The potency of marijuana, as measured by the concentration of [delta-9 THC], has increased from ∼2-3 percent in the 1970s to ∼20 percent today," wrote the study's authors.


The study cited other research on the topic that was conducted during the 1970s and 1980s and concluded that cannabis "is an effective ocular hypotensive agent." However, the scientists noted that administration of cannabis for glaucoma results in not only lowered intra-ocular pressure (a good thing), but also reduced ocular blood flow (a potentially bad thing). 


"Cardiovascular and neurological effects are observed at the same dose and may theoretically reduce the beneficial effect of lowering intra-ocular pressure by reducing ocular blood flow," reported the research. It recommended cannabis for clinical use in the prevention of blindness caused by glaucoma. Still, it noted that wellness professionals and clinicians "must be cognizant of [lowered ocular blood flow]...in [the] diagnosis, prognosis, and therapy [of glaucoma]."


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