Is Medical Marijuana An Effective Treatment For Glaucoma?

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Many of us have heard about glaucoma, but only a few know what it is. Glaucoma is a generalized term that refers to a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve, causing impaired vision and, possibly, even blindness.

Glaucoma affects millions of people and is the leading cause of vision loss after cataracts. It can be distinguished by an intraocular pressure IOP or if the eye has elevated pressure. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type, and it causes the retina to deteriorate slowly, affecting the optic nerve.

In the 1970s,  scientists discovered that THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, could reduce IOP. Because THC is a chemical that causes intoxication, there has always been controversy surrounding its use as a medical treatment. However, even with our long and controversial relationship with marijuana, this discovery still immediately generated interest from doctors and patients dealing with glaucoma.

Doctors also use other treatment options to reduce intraocular pressure, including traditional therapies, which are considered more effective than cannabis. These other treatment options emerged due to the controversy surrounding medical marijuana.

The Arguments for Using Marijuana as a Treatment for Glaucoma   

Proponents of marijuana as a treatment for the symptoms of glaucoma cite the findings of various studies conducted in the 1970s and more recent studies conducted in 2019.

The 2019 study found evidence that marijuana can lower intraocular pressure, the most commonly used approach for treating the symptoms of glaucoma. Other studies using animals suggest that marijuana can stimulate blood flow to the eye. The same studies, according to altitudeorganic.com, also found that marijuana offers neuroprotective effects, preventing nerve damage and reducing the symptoms of glaucoma.

Trial data showed that marijuana lowered intraocular pressure for 3 to 4 hours. A reduction in intraocular pressure occurred when marijuana was smoked, eaten, taken orally as a pill, or intravenously injected.

However, applying THC directly to the eye in cream or eye drop form proved to have no beneficial effect on subjects.

There are several other benefits associated with using marijuana as a treatment for the symptoms of glaucoma. These include:

  • Fewer side effects compared to other treatments
  • Reduces the need for surgery
  • Lowers pain levels
  • Perceived as a natural/herbal product

 The Argument Against Using Marijuana for Treating Glaucoma   

Those opposing the use of marijuana to treat the symptoms of glaucoma point out that for THC to be an effective treatment, an individual would have to consume between 18 and 20 mg of THC eight times daily. Consuming this amount of THC would have detrimental effects on mental clarity, mood, and overall health.

The opposing side says the effects of THC are too short-lived for it to be an effective treatment for glaucoma and regular use of marijuana lowers blood pressure, which can cause problems with the optic nerve’s blood flow. They’re also saying that the studies included small sample sizes, producing conflicting data, and did not make any comparisons between THC and standard glaucoma treatment. 

Lastly, those opposed to the use of marijuana in treating the symptoms of glaucoma point out that regular use of marijuana can have adverse side effects, including:

  •  Psychological effects such as mood swings, anxiety, and paranoia
  • Apathy and lack of motivation
  • Racing or pounding heartbeat
  • Lung damage, airway inflammation, and chronic bronchitis from smoking marijuana
  • Pregnancy problems such as preterm labor
  • Linked to decreased fertility in males
  • Cannabis addiction

Moreover, cannabis is illegal in many countries and at the federal level in the United States. This means that using cannabis to treat glaucoma could easily result in legal problems.

 Key Takeaway 

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness and millions of people all over the world suffer from it. The most common type is open-angle glaucoma, which causes retina deterioration and, subsequently, affecting the optic nerve that would eventually lead to blindness if not treated immediately.

With that, many treatments are available on the market today, providing many options for glaucoma patients. One such glaucoma treatment that’s been gaining a lot of traction recently is medical marijuana. Many studies have shown a lot of promise for this controversial treatment and, while many still doubt its effectivity and safety, it seems like using medical marijuana as a treatment for glaucoma is here to stay – or at least, in countries and states where this wonder plant is already legal.

Yes, medical marijuana can be used as a treatment for the symptoms of glaucoma because it increases blood flow and lowers intraocular pressure. However, other treatments are available that have the same benefits as marijuana. Some of those who are against medical marijuana use are even saying these other options may be a lot safer than cannabis. Of course, all these pro and con arguments are all pretty much inconclusive as studies are still ongoing.

If you’re thinking about trying medical marijuana as a treatment for your glaucoma, make sure to check with a medical professional first.

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