How Cannabis Treats Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a chronic condition that occurs when the optic nerve connecting the eye to the brain is damaged due to high eye pressure. Symptoms may include vision loss, nausea, and eye pain. The disease is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, and it affects over three million Americans.

There is no known cure for glaucoma, but medicine or surgery can help control its symptoms. Studies suggest that cannabis can actually fight off glaucoma and relieve intense eye pressure.

Here are 5 things you need to know about how cannabis treats glaucoma:

Cannabinoids are neuroprotective

Glaucoma leads to vision loss due to the selective death of retinal ganglion cells, neurons near the inner surface of the retina. But a study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology found that THC and CBD, the two main components of cannabis, have antioxidant properties that can help prevent neuronal death by eliminating toxins like glutamic acid.

Cannabinoids have vasorelaxant properties

According to the same study, cannabinoids can also increase ocular blood flow. The study found that 2-arachidonoylglycerol, an endogenous cannabinoid, reduces the action of endothelin-1, a protein that constricts blood vessels and contributes to the development of glaucoma. This evidence suggests that cannabis may have beneficial properties in treating glaucoma caused by vascular disease.

Cannabis reduces intraocular pressure (IOP)

IOP is a main contributing factor for glaucoma, and it needs to be strictly managed in order to avoid permanent vision loss. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that cannabinoids lower IOP by about 25 percent in 60 to 65 percent of patients. The effects of inhaled cannabis last for only 3 to 4 hours, so oral and topical cannabinoids may show better promise.

THC decreases blood pressure

A study published in the Journal of the National Medical Association suggests that the ability of cannabis to reduce IOP actually stems from THC’s ability to reduce blood pressure. Glaucoma patients experience a buildup of fluid (aqueous humor) in the eye. A decrease in blood pressure allows this fluid to drain, resulting in lower IOP.

Cannabis relieves nausea

Especially with acute glaucoma, patients typically experience sudden and intense nausea. A study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine found that even squint surgery to correct the misalignment of the eyes causes patients to suffer from abdominal pain and vomiting. Cannabis is a proven and effective nausea reliever due to the therapeutic effects of THC.
Have you had any success in treating glaucoma with cannabis? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Alyssa Gocinski
Alyssa majors in Journalism at Emerson College. While abroad in the Netherlands, she became interested in drug policy when interviewing locals about the cannabis industry. Alyssa researches widespread material and breaks it down into enjoyable and easy-to-read pieces.

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