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6 Eye-Opening Facts You Need to Know About Marijuana and Glaucoma

Glaucoma patients know all about their treatment options. They can go for surgery or medications. But what about alternative treatments? Let's explore the use of cannabis for glaucoma as we list down 7 interesting facts about marijuana and glaucoma.
September 16, 2018

Did you know that an estimated 3 million Americans have glaucoma? Of the 3 million, only half of them know that they have the condition!

Glaucoma is a condition that causes gradual – yet significant – vision loss. It can even cause debilitating pain and irreversible blindness.

There are medications and surgeries that can prevent permanent damage caused by glaucoma. But treatment, for many patients, is something that they’ll have to endure the rest of their lives.

However, there is hope. Research continues to show that medical marijuana has beneficial effects on glaucoma. And now more than ever, glaucoma patients are using medical marijuana in states where it is legal.

If you suffer from glaucoma, medical marijuana may be a viable treatment option for you. In this article, we’ll explore 7 facts you need to know about marijuana and glaucoma.

Let’s get started!

1. There Is No Cure for Glaucoma

The onset of glaucoma is gradual and occurs when pressure forms against the eye’s optic nerve. This type of pressure is often referred to as IOP, or intraocular pressure.

Millions of nerve cells make up the optic nerve, which connects to the retina. It transfers visual information from the retina to the brain. It’s found in the back of the eye and transfers this information through nerve pulses.

If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to complete blindness. Glaucoma can also cause redness, tunnel vision, pain, and frequent visual glares.

There is no glaucoma cure as of right now. But there are medications and surgeries that can reduce optic pressure. However, treatment for glaucoma needs to begin as soon as possible.

2. There Are Different Types of Glaucoma

People normally experience loss of peripheral vision before their vision gets worse. When pressure builds on the optic nerve, it damages the exterior nerve fibers. This is what causes peripheral vision loss.

As the disease progresses, this damage spreads throughout the eye. Some people don’t experience any symptoms at all!

Treatment for glaucoma generally focuses on draining the eye. But not every case of glaucoma is the same.

In fact, there are several types of glaucoma. Below we’ll outline three of the major types.

Open-Angle Glaucoma

This type of glaucoma causes slow, gradual damage to the optic nerve. As this happens, a person gradually loses eyesight – often before they realize it.

With open-angle glaucoma, one eye is normally more affected than the other. The cause is not known, but risks are higher if it runs in the family.

Closed-Angle Glaucoma

This is a less common form of glaucoma. Unlike open-angle glaucoma, this type forms at a rapid rate.

Closed-angle glaucoma occurs when pressure builds between the lens and the iris. When this occurs, fluid builds up and causes the iris to press against the eye’s drainage system.

Closed-angle glaucoma is an emergency that requires treatment right away.

Congenital Glaucoma

This is a rare, genetic form of glaucoma that affects 1 in every 10,000 infants. It can also develop between 3 months of age and age 3.

In cases congenital glaucoma, eye fluid doesn’t circulate around the eye like normal. The eye is not able to drain this fluid, and as a result, a buildup of pressure occurs.

80-90% of children can avoid vision problems if caught and treated early.

3. Glaucoma Medications Have Adverse Side Effects

Surgery is often used to treat serious cases of glaucoma. But medicated eye drops are the most common form of treatment for open-angle glaucoma.

These eye drops can contain a variety of medications. Some medications work to drain the eye and reduce intraocular pressure. Others work to decrease the production of fluid that increases IOP.

However, most of these medications can cause adverse side effects.

For example, some beta-blocking medications can cause fatigue and low blood pressure. Beta-blockers can also cause depression and decreased libido.

Other medications can contain cholinergic agents. Their side effects include slow heartbeat, cramping, and muscle weakness. In serious cases, they can cause weak breathing, nausea, and even cardiac arrest.

4. Cannabinoids Reduce Intraocular Pressure

Glaucoma medications are effective. However, their undesirable side effects have made people seek out natural glaucoma treatment. And that’s where medical cannabis comes in.

But how does marijuana help glaucoma exactly?

Studies have shown that marijuana can reduce intraocular pressure by up to 30%. In 1971, a study showed that patients who smoked marijuana experienced a 25-30% decrease in IOP. The reduction in intraocular pressure about 3-4 hours.

This study, in particular, demonstrates the correlation between marijuana and glaucoma. But the study also reveals that glaucoma patients need to consume it every few hours.

Marijuana is traditionally believed to only have psychoactive effects. This would seem problematic in regards to treatment for glaucoma.

Glaucoma patients would have to consume marijuana many times per day. Then, they’d have to experience its psychoactive effects after each application, right?

Not exactly!

5. CBD Is Non-Psychoactive

Cannabis contains over 100 known chemical compounds known as cannabinoids. And not all of them have the same effects.

THC is a chemical compound that makes up a large portion of the cannabis plant. It’s responsible for the psychoactive effects that people experience when they consume marijuana.

But then there’s something known as CBD. This non-psychoactive cannabinoid has the same medicinal effects as THC on glaucoma. But it doesn’t create the psychoactive effects that occur with THC.

Because of its non-psychoactive effects, CBD oil and strains are highly sought out. Now more than ever, it’s possible to extract CBD from the cannabis plant and to grow strains that only contain it.

6. CBD Relieves Pain

CBD is not only helpful in reducing intraocular pressure. As a cannabinoid, it functions as a natural pain reliever. This has to do with something known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS).

The ECS is a basic physiological system that all humans have. It’s comprised of naturally occurring cannabinoid receptors found in the nervous system.

Neurotransmitters, known as endocannabinoids, bind to cannabinoid receptors and function as signals. These signals let our brains know when we experience external damage, for example. In response, we experience pain or inflammation.

So, what does this all have to do with the treatment of glaucoma?

Marijuana, Glaucoma, & Pain Regulation

Open-angle glaucoma is not known to cause pain. But with closed-angle glaucoma, eye pain and redness accompany rapid vision loss.

Surgery is almost always needed for treating closed-angle glaucoma. But CBD eye drops can not only regulate a patient’s intraocular pressure post-surgery. They can also help with reducing the pain that a patient may experience.

Understanding Marijuana and Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a serious condition that is a leading cause of blindness in the United States. There are various medicines out there that can help to treat it. But these medications often cause adverse, even debilitating, side effects.

There is not yet a glaucoma cure. But the connection between marijuana and glaucoma is clear. Marijuana may be able to function as a natural treatment that doesn’t cause undesirable side effects.

CBD eye drops are spurring a lot of hope for the glaucoma community. If you’re interested to learn more about CBD oil and eye drops, contact us today!

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