Glaucoma and Cannabis

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Glaucoma is a complex and progressive disease that damages the optic nerve and leads to irreversible vision loss. The damage is often caused by an abnormally high pressure in the eye. It is the second leading cause of blindness.

According to current research, marijuana and THC have been shown to lower intraocular pressure (IOP) in 60% to 65% of both normal individuals and patients with glaucoma. Mean IOP was reduced by 25% in one study. The duration of action is short, about 3 to 4 hours. There appears to be a dose-dependent relationship between the amount of THC consumed and the degree of IOP reduction. (1)

In glaucoma, the final pathway that leads to visual loss is the selective death of retinal ganglion cells through apoptosis, or accelerated cell death. Cannabinoids have the potential of becoming a useful treatment for glaucoma as they seem to have neuroprotective properties that support the natural process of cell death and have been shown to inhibit angiogenesis and inflammation.(3)

The body’s own endocannabinoid system (ECS) is one of our most important physiological systems. Almost every aspect of our health, including pain modulation, neuroprotection, inflammation and immune response, are dependent on the ECS. Given ECS’s vital role, cannabinoid based medications could be immensely useful in treating and preventing glaucoma, especially since cannabinoid receptors are very prominent in ocular tissue that is responsible for regulating IOP. (2)

Within the eye, the endocannabinoid system has receptors 1 and 2 respectively in the anterior segment, and the retina and trabecular meshwork. According to Dr. Brett A. Hughes, “Natural and synthetic cannabinoids interact with the endocannabinoid system to provide neuroprotection.” He goes on to say that “synthetic and natural molecules that react with the endocannabinoid offer a new perspective for treating glaucoma, IOP control, preserving microcirculation in the eye and minimizing free-radical activity”(4).

Before trying cannabis for your glaucoma, consult your ophthalmologist and discuss various treatments, including cannabis.

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Sources:

Green K. Marijuana smoking vs cannabinoids for glaucoma therapy. Arch Ophthalmol. 1998;116(11):1433-1437
https://www.leafly.com/news/health/cannabis-for-glaucoma-treatment
https://glaucomatoday.com/articles/2018-mar-apr/marijuana-and-glaucoma
https://www.ophthalmologytimes.com/view/making-case-cannabis-treating-glaucoma-mechanism-action

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