British Journal of Ophthalmology: Can Smoking Marijuana Treat Glaucoma?

When I was in high school I recall an acquaintance who had terrible eyesight. He had to wear some astonishingly thick eyeglasses and he also had glaucoma. He had a severe case of glaucoma too, so it was predicted that at some time in his adult life he may indeed go blind.

However, this same person had a very healthy habit — at least for his eyes, he smoked pot daily for as long as I had known him. Years later, after we all graduated from high school, I ran into him and he could still see fairly well. I recall him telling me that his doctor simply said that whatever you’re doing, keep doing it! The reasoning was simple. It turns out that marijuana can reduce intraocular pressure (IOP), the underlying cause of glaucoma. In this case, at least, his habit prevented the most devastating feature of glaucoma to manifest — it prevented him from going blind.

WHAT IS GLAUCOMA?

From the Mayo Clinic website:

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve…. This damage is often caused by an abnormally high pressure in your eye.

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness. It can occur at any age.

Vision loss due to glaucoma can’t be recovered…If you have the condition, you’ll generally need treatment for the rest of your life.

Glaucoma is the result of damage to the optic nerve…. For reasons that doctors don’t fully understand, this nerve damage is usually related to increased pressure in the eye.

Elevated eye pressure is due to a buildup of a fluid (aqueous humor) that flows throughout your eye. When fluid is overproduced or the drainage system doesn’t work properly, the fluid can’t flow out at its normal rate and pressure builds up.

Therefore, it’s important to keep intraocular pressure in the normal range using a variety of medications. It may turn out that cannabis one day will be added to the medication arsenal.

TREATMENT

Traditional therapies include eye drops, systemic medications, and surgery. Although the Mayo clinic does include cannabis as an alternative treatment, the American Academy of Ophthalmology doesn’t recommend marijuana for treating glaucoma.

STUDY FROM BRITISH JOURNAL OF OPHTHALMOLOGY

From Cannabinoids and Glaucoma by Dr. I Tomida et al.

Cannabinoids effectively lower the intraocular pressure (IOP) and have neuroprotective actions. Thus, they could potentially be useful in the treatment of glaucoma.

Cannabinoids have the potential of becoming a useful treatment for glaucoma, as they seem to have neuroprotective properties and effectively reduce intraocular pressure. However, several challenges need to be overcome, including the problems associated with unwanted systemic side effects (psychotropic, reduction in systemic blood pressure), possible tolerance, and the difficulty in formulating a stable and effective topical preparation. Some cannabinoids such as HU-211 [an endogenous cannabinoid] and cannabidiol do not have psychotropic effects, while maintaining their IOP lowering action, so that further research on these compounds would be desirable. Tolerance may develop… [but] tolerance might be beneficial if it develops only or preferentially to unwanted side effects.

The mechanism of action is still unknown. Although the effects of cannabis on lowering IOP only last 3-4 hours the use of eye drops may make this a convenient way to dose regularly throughout the day. Finding cannabinoids that are not psychoactive would make this even more appealing. Due to the antiinflammatory and antioxidant properties of THC and other cannabinoids, the authors also suggested that cannabinoids may be a good future medication for treating macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in the elderly.

Dr. Christopher Rasmussen
Dr. Christopher Rasmussen MD,MS, an anesthesiologist with a Master’s degree in traditional Chinese medicine, is a professor, lecturer, seminar provider, and world authority on preventive medicine.For more information on preventive medicine see www.inflaNATION.com.

 

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