This is Part 3 of Our Vision Care Series on Glaucoma
With the legalization of marijuana for medical use in thirty-two states and recreational use in ten states, combined with the fact that is has long been rumored that THC helps with glaucoma, many patients are inquiring about its use for treatment of this serious vision condition.
If you have read our other articles on glaucoma (here and here) you now know that the damage to the eye is caused by increase of intraocular pressure on the iris. It was discovered as far back as the 1970s through medical testing that use of marijuana did have the ability to lower IOP or intraocular pressure. Because of this scientists, patients and doctors want to know if this is a viable long term treatment option for this widespread disease. In fact, because of these early rumors, the drug has reached an almost mythical status among patients having hope that it can by the miracle to cure their condition.
So right to it: yes, ongoing testing has confirmed that marijuana does lower IOP. Unfortunately, in comparison to other conventional treatments, there are some significant drawbacks. Since ingesting THC only reduces the pressure on the eye for three to four hours a patient would have to consume up to ten doses of marijuana a day.
But because of the other effects of marijuana on the mental state and physical body this simply would not be an advisable treatment plan. While many people enjoy the euphoria that THC gives, it also is known to cause paranoia, impair judgement, decrease coordination and elevate heart rate, none of which are things you want to encounter on a consistent basis. It can also dry out the eyes countering the very good it is doing in treating the condition. Other long term concerns of ongoing marijuana use are permanent lung damage from smoking, this considerably outweighs any advantage the drug may have. Long term use of marijuana can raise the risk of lung cancer and may result in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Additionally, the ability for the drug to decrease the pressure on the eye decreases over time, meaning more of the drug would be required for the same affect.
These things combined with the lack of consistency and regulation in the industry does not make THC a viable option. THC eye drops are being researched but as of yet have not come to market.
In case you are curious the precise mechanism of the ocular hypotensive effect that has been recorded on the eye is exactly unknown. But cannabinoid receptors do exist in the trabecular meshwork and the ciliary muscle of the eye. It is a direct reaction with these that may cause the increased outflow of uveoscleral fluid and relief of pressure.
In summary, the largest association of eye surgeons and physicians in the United States does not endorse marijuana in any of its forms as a recommended treatment for glaucoma. If you are looking for an acceptable treatment read more about medical and surgery treatments for glaucoma here. But most importantly consult your ophthalmologist to find the appropriate treatment plan for you.
Jerry Willis is the owner of Lumen Eyewear and the computer glasses and reading glasses brand Visualites. Jerry has years of experience in eyewear frame and lens design and manufacturing of eyewear and is a member of the Vision Council of the United States of America. Lumen Eyewear is also a FDA licensed manufacturer and importer of reading glasses and computer glasses. Visualites is dedicated to bringing its customers products that not only improve their vision but the health of their eyes.