What Is Glaucoma?
One of the leading causes of blindness, glaucoma refers to conditions of the eye where the optic nerve is affected, so ocular fluid cannot easily pass through the anterior and posterior chambers in the eyeball. In most cases, the optic nerve is damaged by increased pressure in the eye. This is also known as intraocular pressure, or IP. Currently, there are no treatments for glaucoma, but many studies dating as far back as the 1970s have shown that smoking marijuana reduces the pressure, or IP, in the eye.
How Marijuana Can Help Tame the Symptoms of Glaucoma
Even though there are many treatments out there made for lowering the pressure in the eye, including laser treatment, medication, and surgery, there are some people who suffer from glaucoma who find these methods do not work properly; either they do not lower ocular pressure enough or they cause unwanted side effects. It is with these patients that doctors have begun to search out alternative ways to bring down that IP, and it has recently become possible to look further into this research, with marijuana becoming legalized in more states both for recreational and medical use.
Research conducted by the National Eye Institute shows that reducing intraocular pressure is as easy as smoking marijuana or using marijuana vaporizers. Cannabinoid receptors are present in the brain, and when you inhale marijuana, the cannabinoids in the smoke find their way to those receptors. They then find their way into the blood and are pushed through the ophthalmic artery, or the artery that pumps blood to the eye. From there, they reach the cannabinoid receptors in the eye to provide relief.
The active ingredients in cannabis can also be extracted and then put into capsules or injected by the patient for the same effect. However, this symptom-treating medicine only lasts anywhere between three to four hours, while glaucoma is an around-the-clock condition. This means that the patient would need to be ingesting cannabis on a regular basis, up to 6-8 times a day, which can cause impairment when it comes to driving, as well as preventing the patient from operating at their highest mental capabilities.
Side Effects of Its Own
On top of its mood altering effects, cannabis also contains hundreds of undesirable compounds that can damage the lungs, and using marijuana every day, or even frequently and long-term can have adverse effects on the brain. There are ways to avoid combustion of the buds that still delivers the same effect, such as a pill to swallow, a tablet under the tongue, or an injection, and this avoids some of those side effects. Still, that does not mean they are negated entirely; drowsiness and impaired judgment are still factors to consider.
In one study, doctors allowed their patients the choice of pills or smoking cannabis, and all patients discontinued use of either or both after 9 months due to the side effects. Other methods with minimal side effects are being investigated, such as eye drops that contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), but as of yet, it has not been possible to create an eye drop that can deliver THC to the eye in a high enough concentration to actually work.
In conclusion, there is growing evidence that marijuana can, indeed, assist with a patient’s glaucoma. There may be some negative side-effects to make patients and their doctors want to consider ways other than smoking to ingest the THC, but the treatment is available for those who are able to withstand the effects to enjoy the benefits. With all of this taken into consideration, you should never try an alternative medicine, such as marijuana, for glaucoma or any other condition without first consulting your physician.