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Like many, if you heard talk of marijuana and eyesight, your first thought might be about your high school buddy who always had the red, bloodshot eyes. Well, those stereotypical thoughts could soon be a thing of the past as cannabis use to treat glaucoma is on the rise. But is it right for your glaucoma?

In the 1970’s & 80’s studies were conducted to see if cannabis could alleviate glaucoma symptoms. But before we get into what they found one first must understand what glaucoma is.

Glaucoma is a common eye disease that affects the optic nerve. It tends to be inherited but can also be caused by other factors such as injury or inflammation. It usually affects both eyes and if left untreated, can lead to vision loss and blindness.

Fluid in the front of the eye does not circulate and so doesn’t drain properly. What causes this blockage, so far, remains unknown but this lack of drainage causes a buildup of pressure within the eye. This is known as Intraocular Pressure (or “IOP”). When the IOP is high, it causes damage to the optic nerve, damage that is not reversible. Therefore, it’s imperative to reduce the intra-ocular pressure.

The most common treatments range from prescription medications such as eye drops to laser procedures and surgery.

Some of these treatments carry with them many adverse side effects so alternative forms of care have been researched.
Research was started in the 1970’s to see if the active ingredient of marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (or “THC”) could lower IOP and the resultant studies were supported by the NIH National Eye Institute.

They found that it did indeed reduce IOP by about 30% for 3-4 hours, peaking at the 2 hour mark.

A 2006 double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that a low, 5mg sublingual dose of Delta-9-THC, lowered IOP significantly for up to 4 hours and was well tolerated.

When it comes to late stage glaucoma, with its corresponding pain and nausea, many doctors are frequently recommending cannabis to treat or alleviate these symptoms.

However, the future of cannabis is to not only treat the symptoms of glaucoma, but to also stop the progression. Scientists are testing cannabis containing eye drops for topical use that are showing positive results in lab tests. These eye drops hope to reduce the effects of glaucoma and stop the progression.

So the future for cannabis glaucoma treatment may indeed be bright. Speak with your medical practitioner to see if cannabis is the right treatment option for your glaucoma.

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