Does Marijuana Help Glaucoma?
There is a lot of focus in the U.S. and around the world on the potentially helpful aspects of using marijuana in medicine. Much of the research is promising, although there are risks and unknowns when it comes to medical marijuana.
One specific area where there’s attention is on marijuana and glaucoma.
So, does marijuana help glaucoma? Below is more information on this condition, and also specifics on marijuana and glaucoma and their potential relationship to one another.
Glaucoma is a disease that affects the optic nerve and can ultimately lead to loss of vision and blindness. In most people, glaucoma affects both eyes, although some people may experience the condition being worse in one eye. There are two primary categories of glaucoma. The first is open-angle and the second is closed-angle.
With closed-angle glaucoma, the person will usually have relatively sudden pain and vision loss, but since there is a lot of pain with this type, the person usually gets medical treatment quickly so it can help prevent permanent damage.
With primary open-angle glaucoma, also often called chronic glaucoma, there is a slow progression, and many symptoms aren’t noticed including minimal vision loss. Because of how slowly this progresses people often don’t get treatment for the condition until there’s already permanent damage.
One of the primary reasons people feel pain when they have glaucoma is because of the high levels of pressure in the eye.
The goal of most treatments for glaucoma is to improve how fluid flows from the eye, to reduce the production of fluid or a combination of both.
The first treatments usually given for glaucoma are eye drops, but they can have unpleasant side effects such as rarely retinal detachment or breathing problems. There are also surgery options if medicines don’t work and they can include surgery to unblock drainage canals, filtering surgery to open eye channels and drainage implants.
So, does marijuana help glaucoma?
Medical marijuana has been linked to glaucoma for decades, and there were studies that showed that marijuana could help reduce the intraocular pressure people with glaucoma experience. With that being said, research showed that marijuana could only temporarily reduce the eye pressure of glaucoma. In fact, most research shows that with marijuana and glaucoma, the effects of the marijuana last only a few hours, and this is one of the biggest reasons marijuana might not be the best treatment for glaucoma.
Glaucoma needs around-the-clock treatment, so it would require that someone use marijuana throughout the day to really get the benefits.
Of course, with this comes the consideration that marijuana can alter your behavior and perception, and there are side effects that come with its use.
Another reason a lot of researchers are rethinking the conventional wisdom about the relationship between marijuana and glaucoma is because there is some evidence coming to light that glaucoma may also be a neurological disease that comes from a reduced level of blood flow to the optic nerve. Marijuana lowers blood pressure, which can result in even less blood flow to the optic nerve.
With marijuana and glaucoma, it’s not seen as an ideal treatment for early-stage patients.
However, even with that being said, with late-stage glaucoma, marijuana is often more encouraged as a treatment. The reason is because during late stage glaucoma the objective isn’t necessarily to treat it because the long-term damage has likely already been done. Instead, marijuana may be used to help treat the accompanying symptoms and discomfort. For example, marijuana could help with the pain and nausea that can be associated with late-stage glaucoma.
There is likely to be continuing research on marijuana and glaucoma, because of the role cannabinoid receptors play in ocular tissue. It may be that in the future researchers are able to develop cannabis-based medicines that are more effective in helping with earlier stage glaucoma.
Right now with marijuana and glaucoma doctors are more likely to recommend it when glaucoma has reached later stages, and the marijuana can be used as a way to help the patient cope with the side effects.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t a future for marijuana and glaucoma, especially as researchers are looking at cannabinoid-based medicines that could have positive future implications.
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