Marijuana and Glaucoma

Marijuana and Glaucoma

In 2014 Alaska passed ballot Measure 2, making it the third US state to legalize the production, sale, and use of Marijuana. Before it received legal status for recreational use, Marijuana was legalized for medicinal purposes in 1998. One of the medical diagnoses that is often associated with Marijuana is Glaucoma. But does it really work? In this blog, we’ll discuss the effects of Marijuana use on our eyes, and whether or not this legal drug is a viable treatment option for eye disease. 

What is Marijuana?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines Marijuana as the dried flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant, containing mind-altering (e.g., psychoactive) compounds like tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, as well as other active compounds like cannabidiol, or CBD, that are not mind-altering. It has been used for thousands of years as a medicine, while the hemp variety of the plant has a long history of use in textiles and food. 

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of diseases that occur when fluid builds up in the eyes, putting pressure on the optic nerve. This pressure can lead to damage of the nerve eventually resulting in vision loss. It often occurs without symptoms and is not usually painful, so the only way to know if you have glaucoma is by seeing an eye doctor for a dilated eye exam. This disease does not have a cure, but it can be managed with medication, laser treatment,  or surgery. 

Does Marijuana Work to Treat Glaucoma?

When fluid builds up in the eye, the intraocular pressure (IOP) inside the eye increases. If the pressure becomes too high, it can damage the optic nerve. Many studies have shown that use of Marijuana or THC can significantly decrease IOP for 3 to 4 hours after ingestion, however to treat glaucoma and protect vision, eye pressure has to be controlled 24 hours a day. Because Marijuana use reduces IOP for such a short period of time, to effectively reduce IOP you would have to ingest about 18 to 20 mg of THC six to eight times a day, every day according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). Using such a large amount of Marijuana would significantly affect mental clarity and impair functions such as driving or working, and would likely be cost prohibitive. Additionally, studies have shown that Marijuana use may actually increase risk of vision loss. Use of Marijuana reduces blood pressure throughout the body, and this reduction leads to a decrease in blood flow to the optic nerve. Without adequate blood flow, the optic nerve may be damaged, resulting in permanent loss of vision.

Glaucoma can be successfully treated with medication or surgery. There are a number of safe, effective glaucoma treatments available. Your ophthalmologist will help you to determine which treatment option is best for you. 

Thank you for taking the time to read our blog. To learn more about your eyes, you can read all of the entries on our website at www.mountainvieweyes.com/blog.

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control, “What is Marijuana?” https://www.cdc.gov/marijuana/faqs/what-is-marijuana.html

American Academy of Ophthalmology, “Does Marijuana Help Treat Glaucoma or Other Eye Conditions?”, David Turbert, Dan Gudgel, https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/medical-marijuana-glaucoma-treament.

Written By: Gina Stafford COA, LDO, ABOC

Posted in: Uncategorized

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