Medical Marijuana: A Look at Glaucoma

Summary:

  • Glaucoma is a common eye disease that can eventually lead to vision loss
  •  Intraocular pressure (IOP) is a major factor in the disease
  • Studies dating back to the 1970s found that marijuana intake could reduce IOP for a period of 3-4 hours at a time
  • Marijuana is used today by glaucoma patients who require an alternative treatment
  • Cannabinoids are believed to have many other benefits in treating glaucoma
  • Research is being done on how to deliver cannabinoids to the eye without psychoactive effects

TruthOnPot.com – Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, affecting over 60 million people worldwide. It was also one of the earliest diseases to bring to light marijuana’s vast potential as a modern medicine.
Numerous studies conducted in the 1970s found that marijuana was a surprisingly effective treatment for patients suffering from intraocular pressure associated with glaucoma.

Yet 40 years later, many health care professionals still appear to be in the dark about medical marijuana’s potential for the treatment of this disease.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a disease of the eye in which increased fluid pressure causes damage to the optic nerve, eventually leading to vision loss and blindness. Glaucoma is age-related and most prevalent among the elderly – affecting approximately 1% of people over 60 and more than 9% of people over 80.

Intraocular pressure (IOP) is both a symptom and risk factor for glaucoma and is believed to play a major role in the deterioration of the optic nerve. IOP refers to elevated levels of pressure inside the eye and most treatments for glaucoma are aimed at reducing IOP.

How Can Marijuana Help?

Although a variety of treatments are available to patients suffering from glaucoma, some respond poorly or are unable to tolerate the side-effects. In these instances, medical marijuana may be considered as an alternative treatment.

A number of studies published in the 1970s showed that marijuana (when smoked or eaten) could lower IOP in patients with glaucoma by approximately 25% – a reduction comparable to that of standard glaucoma treatments available today. Additionally, a dose-response effect was observed, meaning the more marijuana a patient consumed, the higher the reduction in IOP that resulted.

However, the studies also showed that the effects of medical marijuana on IOP could only last between 3 to 4 hours. Since IOP needs to be controlled continuously in the treatment of glaucoma, a patient would have to administer marijuana to themselves every 3-4 hours of every day in order to fulfill a proper treatment regime.

This is an obvious set back for patients with glaucoma wishing to treat themselves with medical marijuana.

How Does It Work?

The explanation for why marijuana reduces IOP remains unknown, although experts have a few theories.

Scientists originally thought that the reduction in IOP was a result of the overall drop in blood pressure caused by marijuana intake. However, upon the discovery of cannabinoid receptors within the human eye, researchers realized that the endocannabinoid system – the body’s natural cannabinoid system – played a much larger role in the regulation of ocular functions than originally thought.

Experts now believe that cannabinoids play a direct role in the regulation of IOP and that harnessing their influence may be the key to developing more effective treatments for glaucoma.

Looking into the Future

The discovery of localized cannabinoid receptors within the eye has led researchers to take another look at topical applications (ie. eye drops) of marijuana.

Initial attempts at administering cannabinoids through eye drops were a failure due to the insoluble nature of the compounds. However, researchers are working on novel ways of increasing the solubility of cannabinoids so that receptors of the eye can be exclusively targeted without triggering any of the psychoactive effects associated with the use of medical marijuana.

Cannabis-based medications are of particular interest to researchers because of their potential to do much more than just lower IOP. Studies suggest that cannabinoids could provide many other benefits in the treatment of glaucoma, such as restoring circulation, inhibiting cell death and minimizing free radical damage.

This incredible combination of benefits has led some experts to believe that cannabis-based medications may become the future standard for treating glaucoma.

Crystal Glimmer

I’ve been using MM for the last eight months. Originally it was in conjunction with the eye drops, but I ran outta eye drops and had to find a different doctor to prescribe them (last one retired). Didn’t get around to it for quite a while and barely remember to do it twice a week let alone twice a day! Even without the drops, my IOP dropped 3 points which is excellent news for anyone, but I was borderline anyway – so it’s great news for me. I’d really like to be part of a study on this.

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