Glaucoma, Marijuana, & CBD Oil
As marijuana use becomes more accepted and increasingly legalized, glaucoma patients frequently ask if marijuana can really treat glaucoma. We need to explain some truths and dispel some myths.
Marijuana is legal for medical use in 30 US states and for recreational use in 9 US States. It’s legal across Canada for recreational use. Despite the relaxed attitude around marijuana, it is still classified by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency as a Schedule I controlled substance (the same category as heroin and LSD ).
Does Marijuana Lower Intraocular Pressure?
Marijuana’s ability to lower intraocular pressure (IOP) was discovered in the 1970s. Elevated IOP is the major risk factor for developing glaucoma and for the progression of glaucoma. Treatment is focused solely on reducing IOP. Many have wondered whether marijuana could be used as a therapy to lower IOP and prevent glaucoma from getting worse or causing blindness.
While marijuana does lower IOP, it has major drawbacks as a treatment for a chronic, long-term, disease like glaucoma:
- First, unlike glaucoma eyedrops (some of which are effective for up to 24 hours), smoking THC reduces eye pressure for only 3-4 hours. Marijuana would require 8-10 doses per day.
- This would cost more than typical glaucoma treatment
- The physical and mental side-effects of frequent marijuana use would reduce one’s productivity.
- Marijuana also impairs judgment and coordination, increases paranoia, elevates heart rate, and irritates the eyes.
Are There Long-Term Side Effects of Marijuana?
Marijuana can cause permanent lung damage when smoked, and possible permanent adverse effects on cognition and mental health. With regular use, tolerance to the eye pressure-lowering effects develops, meaning that increasing drug levels would be required to prevent progression of glaucoma. Moreover, lack of regulation and quality control makes efficacy and safety of marijuana unpredictable. Research efforts to develop THC eyedrops that can effectively lower eye pressure while minimizing side effects are being studied, but have not yet been successful.
What About CBD (cannabidiol) Oil?
New evidence has emerged showing that parts of the cannabis plant, specifically cannabidiol (CBD), the non-intoxicating, trendy component, may actually worsen glaucoma symptoms. Researchers at Indiana University published a study in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science that shows CBD increases pressure in the eye. This is problematic, they say, considering that CBD has become such a household name in American culture that many people, some of which may have or be at risk for glaucoma, are using it haphazardly as a natural, harmless medicine. But in reality, CBD could be destroying their overall eye health.
The Final Verdict
For these reasons, smoking marijuana or using CBD oil is not recommended as a medical treatment for glaucoma. If you use marijuana or CBD oil, let your ophthalmologist know since it may have an impact on your eye pressure readings. Also, it is very important to continue the glaucoma treatment recommended by your ophthalmologist. This treatment and regular monitoring can help you maintain your vision for the rest of your life.
CBD for Glaucoma
Glaucoma is a condition which causes damage to the optic nerves in the eye. This illness happens when there is a fluid building up in the front area of the eye. This fluid increases the pressure and gradually does harm to the optic nerves.
These days, Glaucoma tends to be inherited from generation to generation. It often shows up in people who are 60 years old and above. If the damage continues for a long time, it can result in permanent blindness or partial vision loss. Most patients who are suffering from glaucoma have no early pain or symptoms. It’s important to see an eye doctor frequently so he or she would diagnose before a long-term vision loss occurs.
Signs & Symptoms of Glaucoma
Some common symptoms and signs include a gradual loss of peripheral vision in both eyes, tunnel vision, severe eye pain, blurred vision, vomiting or nausea, red eyes, and unexpected vision issues, especially when lighting is limited.
Risk Factors For Glaucoma
- Old age
- Ethnic background (Hispanics, East Asians, and African Americans have higher risks of developing glaucoma than Caucasians)
- Eye conditions
- Eye surgery
Why does CBD Work for Treating Glaucoma?
Studies 1 have shown that CBD products contain different useful medicinal components such as vaso-relaxant, which can help to increase the level of ocular blood flows. In addition, the anti-inflammatory properties are shown to provide therapeutic alleviation for common symptoms of glaucoma. This is the reason why more and more people are looking to treat themselves with CBD products.
In addition, many patients often suffer from unexpected uncomfortable symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, and severe pain. Therefore, they turn to CBD treatment mainly because these products contain analgesic and anti-nausea properties. Of course, the consumption will depend on their particular stage.
What Are The Benefits of Using CBD to Treat Glaucoma?
Many studies have shown that CBD can help to relieve the intraocular pressure in the eye, thus alleviating symptoms and reducing the damages.
In general, glaucoma does harm your eyes due to the excessive release of a damaging chemical known as glutamate. This compound leads to the death of neurons in the retinal after the formation of peroxynitrite. Some scientific research has presented that CBD products can prevent the formation of damaging peroxynitrite 2 . As a result, it will provide the ultimate protection for the neuron nerves from glutamate-induce cell death.
In addition to minimizing cell death, CBD has also proved to be helpful in dealing with some risk factors.
The Endocannabinoid System & Glaucoma
All of us have an endocannabinoid system, which plays an essential part in inflammation and neuroprotection. Specifically, the CB1 cannabinoid receptors in the ocular tissues of our eye that are responsible for controlling intraocular pressure. Therefore, many scientists believe that the use of cannabinoid-based products such as CBD would have a positive effect on the endocannabinoid system and these cannabinoid receptors. In fact, the medications could potentially reduce the IOP and protect your retinal cells.
How Can I Use CBD to Treat Glaucoma?
If used properly, CBD can be a great option for many people. However, it’s important to remember that every person is unique and everyone’s reaction to CBD is different. The recommended dosage from each product can differ greatly, creating some confusion. Dosage may be different depending on the percentage of CBD oil you are using. On average, 25mg of CBD a day is effective for most people. For strong symptoms, the dosage can be increased slowly over a week until the symptoms feel better. This, of course, is different for every patient and should be monitored. For more details about dosage, see our post on CBD dosage.
What Are Studies Saying About Using CBD to Treat Glaucoma?
A lot of clinical and experimental studies have been implemented all over the world to find the linkage between CBD and Glaucoma. Many of these have discovered that CBD and cannabis products can be used as a natural approach to treat Glaucoma.
For instance, a study by a group of professors from the University of Aberdeen, UK had demonstrated how cannabinoid compounds such as CBD can relieve the common symptoms of Glaucoma 3 . This occurred as the cannabinoids successfully reduced the IOP and offered neuroprotective properties.
In 1972, another study was implemented, which found that taking cannabis would reduce IOP by 30 to 35 percent 4 . Both of these studies point out that every patient can potentially treat their Glaucoma conditions through the consumption of CBD products.
Since the early 1980s, a couple of studies have been conducted in the US and Europe on the use of CBD on glaucoma treatments 5 . Many of them have proved that different cannabinoid compounds such as CBG, CBD, as well as endogenous cannabinoids can effectively lower IOP when topically administered. More importantly, many histological studies present the direct part of ocular CB1 receptors in the reduction of IOP produced by cannabinoids.
However, a new study 6 doubts the benefits of CBD to treat glaucoma. It seems that CBD could even aggravate the symptoms of the desease.
These days, many ophthalmologists recommend their patients using CBD products rather than cannabis itself, particularly for those who are experiencing the mid-late stage of Glaucoma. Both CBD and Cannabis are able to provide therapeutic effects, but they are only short-term.
Glaucoma causes damage to the optic nerves in the eye. CBD can help to relieve the pressure in the eye, thus alleviating symptoms and reducing the damages.