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Glaucoma and Medical Cannabis

Glaucoma and Medical Cannabis

Definition

“Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases which result in damage to the optic nerve and vision.” (Wikipedia: Glaucoma [1]).

Potential Efficacy / Quality of Evidence (Low, Average, High) of Medical Marijuana for Glaucoma

Average

Cannabinoids, Terpenes/Terpenoids, Strains and Ratios that May Help

THC is of particular use for glaucoma. Terpenes such as linalool and myrcene may be helpful, too.

High doses of CBD should be avoided.

Medical Cannabis Pros

Cannabinoids could help lower eye pressure.

Side-effects of other drugs used for glaucoma may be overwhelming for some.

May lower retinal neurotoxicity.

Medical Cannabis Cons

Cannabis may not prove effective for all glaucoma sufferers, just like any other medication.

Smoking cannabis is not the ideal route of administration, and the smoke could cause some eye irritation.

Not as long-lasting as other medications – usually around 2 – 4 hours.

Cannabinoids are lipophilic, making them difficult for the body to absorb efficiently. Finding a water-based cannabinoid eye drop solution is difficult – for now.

Cannabinoids can lower blood pressure, which reduces blood flow to the eyes as well, which can cause long-term damage.

High doses of CBD may increase intraocular pressure [2] and make glaucoma worse.

More About the Condition

In the 70s, there were few medications available for glaucoma that didn’t have some serious side-effects. Moreover, glaucoma was and still is the second most common cause of blindness the world over, after cataracts. A solution was needed. Alternatives were being searched for regarding hard-to-treat conditions, and one of those alternatives was cannabis. Alongside epilepsy and cancer, this made glaucoma one of the first conditions where there was a concerted effort to understand the therapeutic effects of cannabis.

Researchers found that various cannabinoids lower intraocular eye pressure [3]. Cannabis’ potential neuroprotective effects could help protect against retinal toxicity [4].

However, there have been several medications for glaucoma that have been developed that could help provide longer-term relief than cannabis can for glaucoma, which is usually short-lived at 2-4 hours.

Drugs such as Latanoprost/Xalatan, Timolol/Timoptic are arguably more effective, but aren’t without their problems. Side-effects include joint/muscle pain, flu-like symptoms, blurred vision, depression and impotence. Some people cannot tolerate such medications. This makes cannabinoid treatment still an option, whether as an alternative for those who cannot tolerate other drugs, or as an adjunct to existing treatment options.

 

Quotes from Experts

Thomas Orvald, MD, a cardiac surgeon, stated the following in a YouTube video he created with the Hemp & Cannabis Foundation, uploaded on Apr. 29, 2009:

“The treatment for glaucoma is to somehow get the [intraocular] pressure down within the globe [of the eye]. It just so happens that one of the many virtues of cannabis is that it has the capability of decreasing intraocular pressure… Cannabis is a very effective way, used properly, to decrease the pressure within the eye and to preserve this wonderful retina back here that transcribes all the visual sights into the brain.” Source: Thomas Orvald, MD, https://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/source-biographies/thomas-orvald/ [5]

 

Case Studies – Patient Stories

“I was diagnosed with Glaucoma in 1975. Within a year, I already knew that there was nothing absolutely nothing that was on the market then worked for my glaucoma except for marijuana… One of the benefits of using marijuana is that most of us drop all the other drugs that really do a number on our heads and make it difficult for us to stay healthy between our livers, kidneys and everything else about us. It takes other pills to take care of everything else. I don’t have to deal with that. I did discover marijuana and pretty soon I found that it was the only medicine I ever needed.” Source: Elvy Musikka, https://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/source-biographies/elvy-musikka/ [6]

 

References

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glaucoma

[2] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/12/181217151537.htm

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1772142/

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14578199

[5] https://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/source-biographies/thomas-orvald/

[6] https://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/source-biographies/elvy-musikka/

 

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Possible Efficacy

Average

Positives

Negatives

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