Glaucoma is a group of conditions of the eye where the optic nerves can become damaged over time, reducing vision which can ultimately result in blindness and sometimes causing pain in the afflicted individuals. The main cause of this nerve damage is high intraocular pressure and right now the only known way to treat the disease is by lowering those high pressure levels through the use of medications or eye surgery. It is estimated that 6 to 67 million people have glaucoma globally and that it affects roughly about 2 million people in the U.S..
Cannabis is often seen as a potential form of treatment for a number of different ailments, one of those being glaucoma. The idea that weed could be helpful for treating glaucoma goes back to studies performed back in the ’70’s which confirmed that their subjects’ high intraocular pressure was significantly reduced when smoking or ingesting cannabis in other ways, but strangely not when applied directly to the eye.
With marijuana having been legalized in states like California and medical use being allowed in other states like Florida, those suffering from glaucoma have more access to it than ever before. However, is it that effective as a treatment for the disease? In short, the answer may unfortunately be no.
In a position statement released back in 2003, the American Academy of Ophthalmology stated that marijuana use was not more effective in treating the disease than currently available prescription medications, and in 2010 the American Glaucoma Society also released a study opposing the use of marijuana as treatment due to the short duration of its effects of about three to four hours as well as the plant’s side effects.
The short time period of its pressure lowering effects is seen as being the largest drawback as the individual would need to be consuming marijuana throughout the whole day in order for them to continue to experience the benefits. As you can imagine, this can be quite a problem for most folks as even the most ardent of marijuana enthusiasts may have an issue with being high twenty four hours a day.
Also, there is new research that goes on to show that reduced flow of blood to the optic nerve may also cause damage, and unfortunately cannabis not only lowers the intraocular pressure, it also lowers one’s blood pressure throughout the entire body. Thus, it has the potential to lower the blood flow to the optic nerve, pretty much negating the benefits of the lowered intraocular pressure provided by weed. While research is still being performed on the viability of using compounds found in marijuana to potentially treat glaucoma, we are still many years away from when researchers will have their answers.
Anecdotally, I have a good friend that has used marijuana and extracts to successfully reduce pain and pressure in his eye for many years even if only temporarily. Be sure to always consult with your ophthalmologist or doctor before you try to use marijuana in order to help treat your glaucoma and its symptoms.