Many patients with Glaucoma asks if MMJ can be used for treatmentThere are 60 million glaucoma sufferers globally with about 2.7 million patients in the United States. It is predicted that there will be 80 million glaucoma patients worldwide by 2020.
This disease damages the optic nerve which transmits images to the brain to create vision. It oftentimes leads to blindness. Causes include an increase in intra-ocular pressure (IOP), an imbalance of aqueous humor – the fluid that fills in the front of the eye – produced by a body known as the ciliary located in the eyeball.
Basically, there are two kinds of glaucoma. Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common. It usually results in the slow degradation of peripheral vision, typically in both eyes. Tunnel vision can occur in extreme cases. This type of glaucoma is often discovered late in the breakdown process when damage is advanced. Simply turning one’s head to compensate for narrowing vision is common among patients, which accounts for the advanced state of the disease found in many glaucoma sufferers.
Blocked fluid ducts in the front of the eye may be the cause of open-angle glaucoma. This type of glaucoma can afflict young adults, infants, and children but is usually associated with seniors or those over the age of 40 years old.
The other type of glaucoma is acute angle-closure. It causes many symptoms such as eye pain; nausea and vomiting which usually accompanies severe eye pain; blurred vision; sudden onset of a visual disturbance in low light; reddening of the eye and halos around lights. It is theorized that in this type of glaucoma, an imbalance of fluid evacuation and removal from the eye is defective. The fluid supply to the eye exceeds demand, increasing IOP.
Studies and quotes from medical personnel
In the early 1970s, various studies were done on the use of cannabis as related to glaucoma. Anecdotal reports confirmed the efficacy of medical marijuana. One study noted that after smoking one joint of marijuana, folks who participated had a 25 to 30 percent drop in eye pressure. The effects were useful for about three to four hours a dose. This means as glaucoma needs to be controlled 24 hours a day, that weed smokers would have to light up six to eight times a day, the frequency of which makes establishment doctors uncomfortable.
Edibles were not considered or discussed in this study. There exist eye drops that work 24 hours with just two applications of this medicine. That is one reason many physicians are reluctant to endorse medical cannabis as a possible treatment for glaucoma.
A 2004 study discovered that the efficacy of cannabis is localized to the cannabinoid receptors within the eye. This study theorized that cannabinoids may increase blood flow to the eye leading to healing of the eye.
In 2009, a cardiac surgeon, Dr. Thomas Orvald, said in April of that year, “It just so happens that one of the many virtues of cannabis is that it has the capability of decreasing intraocular pressure”.
A 2016 study stated that recent research has confirmed that 30 to 40 years of evidence that medical marijuana has had a good effect on lowering IOP in patients. “Marijuana is an effective ocular hypertensive agent” concluded the report.
But throughout this research has been a concern by some scientists that a lowering of blood pressure may lead to lowering of blood flow to the eyeball. And a lowering of blood may cause more damage to the already faltering eyeball. This is viewed as disadvantageous for the use of cannabis. But as all things researched and discovered, this needs more studies to either confirm or refute this theory
Recent research suggests that glaucoma is a neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s Disease. In fact, one in four Alzheimer’s patients will develop glaucoma. Glaucoma is now viewed as a significant predictor of Alzheimer’s. Learn something new every day.
Jury Still Out Re: Medical Marijuana
So the jury is still out on the use of medical cannabis for controlling glaucoma. Many doctors say that having to smoke marijuana six to eight times a day will leave the patient out of it for most of her waking hours. They are also concerned about smoking marijuana so many times a day and how it will affect the patient’s lungs and heart. As per usual, US studies leave us with no clear answers and I predict it will remain this way as long as marijuana is a Schedule I drug.