Marijuana and Glaucoma: Is Marijuana a Viable Treatment for This Condition?

According to a recent Pew Research poll, a majority of Americans (59%) believe that marijuana should be available for medical and recreational use. An additional 30% believe marijuana is a good medical treatment for many conditions. This psychoactive herb is frequently used to treat symptoms of chronic pain conditions, cancer, and more.

If you live in a state that allows the use of marijuana for glaucoma treatment, you may wonder whether marijuana can help alleviate the symptoms of your condition. Learn more about marijuana and glaucoma treatment in the following guide.

Marijuana and Glaucoma Symptoms

Glaucoma is a condition that causes damage to the eye’s optic nerve. This nerve receives visual information and transmits it to the brain for processing. In many cases, glaucoma results from abnormal pressure inside the eye.

Glaucoma can result in sudden pain, but often it can develop gradually without causing obvious symptoms. Your eye doctor can identify the first signs of this condition during a routine eye exam, so it’s crucial to check your eyes regularly.

Symptoms of Glaucoma

There are many subtypes of glaucoma, including open-angle glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma, also called closed-angle glaucoma, congenital glaucoma, and secondary glaucoma. Your optometrist is best equipped to diagnose glaucoma and to define which type you may have, and whether or not you are experiencing symptoms. Please don’t attempt to self-diagnose or mix marijuana and glaucoma treatment before speaking to your doctor – this condition can cause eyesight loss if improperly treated.

Symptoms of glaucoma may include the following:

  • Cloudy-looking eyes
  • Headaches, eye pain, and nausea (similar to migraine symptoms)
  • Patches of vision loss or trouble with your peripheral vision
  • Central vision loss (in the late stages of this disease)

Traditional Treatments for Glaucoma

Although there is no cure for glaucoma, treatments today aim to manage the condition by reducing intraocular pressure and preventing further damage to the optic nerve.

While glaucoma can be symptomless, eye drops, medication, laser treatments, and surgery are different levels of care that your eye doctor may suggest. 

Some of these treatments may have side effects. Researchers are investigating herbal treatments like marijuana that could possibly help treat the pain and pressure of glaucoma. 

Can Marijuana Treat Glaucoma?

How does marijuana help glaucoma, and is it a potential treatment? Most experts agree that there isn’t enough research surrounding the use of marijuana for glaucoma treatment (or using marijuana to treat chronic pain in general). Before you talk to your eye doctor about marijuana and glaucoma, consider the benefits and drawbacks of using marijuana as a treatment.

Benefits of Using Medical Marijuana

Marijuana is frequently used for recreational and medicinal purposes. You’ve likely heard many anecdotes linking marijuana use to improving chronic pain, mental health, or insomnia. Research has indicated possible benefits of marijuana for the following conditions:

  • Neurological conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and nerve pain
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Severe chronic pain
  • Side effects of cancer treatment

If your doctor gives you the go-ahead to use medical marijuana, you have the option of using it in several forms. You may choose to smoke it, ingest it as an edible, or use a liquid tincture.

Marijuana and Glaucoma Treatment Drawbacks

A recent study revealed that out of 1516 glaucoma patients surveyed, 13.7% reported having used alternative herbal remedies for their glaucoma, including marijuana. Of these patients, a majority had not disclosed this alternative treatment to their eyecare provider and were reluctant to do so for fear of judgment.

At this point, the American Academy of Ophthalmology doesn’t recommend using marijuana to treat glaucoma. Unfortunately, we don’t know enough about the potential benefits of this herb and how they may relate to glaucoma. Not enough data exists to determine the safety of using marijuana long-term and at high enough doses to treat this condition. Consider these points before considering marijuana to treat glaucoma:

  • Dosage concerns: You may have to ingest (or inhale) a lot of marijuana for it to help glaucoma. At high doses, marijuana may negatively affect your mood and compromise your ability to complete daily tasks, such as driving. Due to the short-lived intraocular pressure-lowering effects of marijuana, large amounts would continuously be needed for treatment to be sustained and may not be worth the result.
  • Optic nerve concerns: In most causes of glaucoma, the intraocular pressure is too high. However, low blood flow can also hurt the optic nerve. While marijuana can decrease the pressure inside your eye, it also lowers blood flow. In alleviating one problem, it may cause another. Combining marijuana and glaucoma may not be safe.

Is It Possible To Treat Glaucoma With Marijuana and Medicine?

Because medical experts know so little about using marijuana to manage chronic pain long-term — and even less about using marijuana as a sole treatment for glaucoma — it’s probably best to avoid using marijuana as the only treatment for glaucoma. Research suggests that a small subset of glaucoma patients may be able to use marijuana to alleviate certain symptoms, but at this stage, the drawbacks outweigh the benefits.

It’s important to remember this condition can cause vision loss. Whether you have a mild or severe case of glaucoma, you should address it as quickly and efficiently as possible with science-backed treatment methods to delay its progression.

You may have questions about treating glaucoma with a combination of medication (or surgery) and marijuana. Ask your optometrist whether this would be a good idea before you try it on your own. Marijuana does not affect everyone in the same way and can even worsen the symptoms of certain mental health conditions. It’s a good idea to work with an eye doctor to tailor your treatment plan instead of experimenting. 

Learn More About Marijuana and Glaucoma

As more states make marijuana available for medical and recreational use, you may have questions about marijuana and glaucoma. Schedule an appointment with True Eye Experts to learn more about whether marijuana is a suitable treatment for your symptoms. We look forward to helping you feel better and see as clearly as possible!


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