Claiming relief from symptoms related to a host of ailments, including neuropathy, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn's disease, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, and irritable bowel syndrome to name a few, people are looking to marijuana as a panacea for all their medical concerns. And now that the drug has been legalized in so many states, it’s readily available for those who wish to experiment with their health care.
But if you have glaucoma and think that marijuana might be your answer, Dr. Kim Doan at Advanced Eyecare of Orange County has some important information for you. She cautions her glaucoma patients about this unproven treatment for this serious condition and explains why here.
Why do some people think marijuana can treat glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a condition that damages the nerves in your eye, and that damage is frequently caused by high intraocular pressure. There are several types of glaucoma, but the two most common are called open-angle and closed-angle, and they both affect the way your eye drains (or doesn’t drain) excess fluids. Improper drainage leads to built-up pressure behind your eye and you begin to lose peripheral vision and eventually go blind.
Marijuana has been shown to decrease intraocular pressure temporarily, which is why people began reaching for it as a possible treatment for glaucoma.
Using marijuana for glaucoma can be dangerous
While using marijuana won’t have a direct negative impact on your glaucoma, it may have an indirect effect that puts you in danger — especially if you delay traditional approaches during the critical window of treatment time.
Marijuana is temporary
It’s true, your intraocular pressure decreases after you use marijuana — but only for about 3-4 hours. In order to prevent your glaucoma from continuing to damage your optic nerves and causing you to go blind, you need a steady, and constant reduction of about 3-5 mm Hg of pressure. That means you’d have to take up to 8 mg of marijuana, or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a compound found in marijuana, up to eight times a day.
Marijuana has negative side effects
Marijuana as a treatment for glaucoma has a huge downside:
- Alters mood
- Reduces mental clarity
- Damages lung tissue (when smoked)
- Lowers overall blood pressure, which decreases blood flow to the eyes
- Excludes you from driving
- May impact the ability to perform daily activities
There are more effective ways to treat your glaucoma without these negative side effects.
No research to support the use of marijuana for glaucoma
The medical community is open to the possibility of incorporating the properties of marijuana into treatments for glaucoma, but to date, the evidence does not support its use. THC, the main psychoactive component in marijuana, has been researched in several forms, but none proves effective or practical.
- THC eye drops burn the eyes and do not lower intraocular pressure
- THC pills do not lower intraocular pressure
- THC cigarettes do not lower intraocular pressure (even after nine months)
Cannabidiol (CBD) is another chemical derived from the cannabis or marijuana plant, but it doesn't have the same mood-altering effects as THC. Many have tried to use CBD in various forms to treat glaucoma as well, but there’s still no research to show it helps. In fact, it may actually increase your intraocular pressure.
So, what does work for treating glaucoma?
The good news is we can treat your glaucoma very successfully. Depending on the stage of your glaucoma, Dr. Doan may suggest starting with simple eye drops that help decrease pressure and slow down or stop the damage to your nerves. Oral medication is another option that may improve your symptoms.
If your glaucoma has progressed, you may need surgery. In this case, you want to choose an experienced surgeon who uses the most advanced technologies to correct your vision. Dr. Doan performs intricate laser surgeries using state-of-the-art techniques to stop the progression of your glaucoma and save your vision.
If you have glaucoma or think you might, now is the time to act. While it’s the number one cause of blindness for people who are over 60 years old, it’s also highly treatable, and the sooner the better. Call us today or request an appointment online.