It’s no secret that some folks who suffer from glaucoma or poor eye health turn to cannabis for relief—and the vast majority report that marijuana helps them. Glaucoma arises when excess fluid causes intraocular pressure at the front of the eye. This can damage the optic nerve and usually results in pain, blurry vision and in some cases, blindness.
It’s thought that the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) lowers blood pressure and so reduces the intraocular pressure, just as many of the pharmaceutical glaucoma treatments aim to do. Scientific studies back up the anecdotal evidence and make a case for marijuana not only as a pressure and pain reliever, but also as a neuroprotectant for eye nerves.
Are you thinking about treating your glaucoma with cannabis? Here are three popular questions about marijuana for glaucoma that members of the HelloMD community posed to our group of doctors, nurses and cannabis experts on our Answers page. Don’t see your question about cannabis as a glaucoma treatment here? Head over to the Answers page where you can ask your question and hopefully learn how you can incorporate marijuana into your glaucoma treatment regimen.
Answer: @andrewvanmd Cannabis has been shown to lower intraocular pressure and help with the symptoms associated with glaucoma. The pressure needs to be kept down all the time. Treatment with edibles and tinctures provide long-acting relief and would be preferred to smoking numerous times per day. I would try a CBD (cannabidiol)-rich whole-plant cannabis extract in a tincture format, three or four times a day.
My friend still smokes several times a day for his glaucoma. But from my understanding, the pharma drugs are actually better for this than marijuana at this point. He is anti-pill and likes his weed. We argued about this last week and I want a doctor's opinion so we know who is right.
Answer: @dredmunds Traditional medications are well-established for the treatment of glaucoma. It’s important that you determine a target intraocular pressure with your ophthalmologist and then be followed closely. The first line therapy is typically pharmacologic or laser therapy (not surgery). If pharmacologic therapy is chosen, one current recommendation is topical prostaglandin. If mono therapy is not sufficient, another topical (a beta blocker) may be added.
From what we know, I would consider marijuana to be a complementary or supplemental therapy to your medication; and this decision should be arrived upon with the guidance of your ophthalmologist. Cannabis does decrease intraocular pressure, and it also has neuroprotective properties, so it may be helpful in the treatment and prevention of progression in glaucoma.
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Answer: @drjacquelynlew Hello! For eye health I'd recommend a 1:1 CBD:THC ratio oil. CBD protects the optic nerve while THC has been shown to reduce intraocular pressure. I'd look for high-quality sublingual tinctures and start with a low dose in the evening, increasing slowly if necessary.
Of course, it's always recommended to have annual preventive check-ups from an eye specialist (O.D. optometrist or M.D. ophthalmologist) and use cannabis as a complementary medication to their recommendations. Eating healthy foods especially those high in vitamin A (think orange-colored foods like carrots and sweet potatoes) and taking an eye vitamin can also be helpful for eye health as is protecting the eyes with sunglasses and safety goggles when needed. Best of luck.
Photo credit: Simon Wijers