January is Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is commonly treated using medical marijuana, dating back to the 1970’s. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness; it is a serious chronic eye condition that can cause permanent damage to the optic nerve and in turn, caused blurred, distorted vision. There are numerous treatment options for patients with glaucoma; medical marijuana has the potential to help patients as well.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye condition that is linked to a build-up of pressure inside the eye. This fluid, called aqueous humor, and flows through a mesh-like channel in functioning, healthy eyes. If these channels get blocked for any reason, pressure from the fluid builds up, causing strain on the optic nerve. These pressures on the optic nerve are referred to as intraocular pressure (IOP).
Glaucoma causes significant and irreversible damage to the optic nerve, leading to vision impairment, loss, and in some cases, blindness. Glaucoma usually appears later in adulthood, between the ages of 40-60, though young adults, children, and infants can sometimes have it as well. Some risk factors include a family history of glaucoma, poor vision, previous eye injuries, thin corneas, and high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and sickle cell anemia. Glaucoma has no early warning signs, though it can be detected during comprehensive eye exams. Thus, the best way to prevent damage from glaucoma is to get routine eye exams.
The signs and symptoms associated with glaucoma can vary based on the progression of an individual’s condition but typically starts as patchy blind spots or tunnel vision. As glaucoma progresses, it can cause severe pain, nausea and vomiting, and blurred vision.
How Can Medical Marijuana Help
Medical marijuana is one of the many treatment options for glaucoma. In research-based studies, there has been a link between marijuana consumption and lowered IOP. THC is the main cannabinoid that has been linked to reducing IOP. However, it is notable that THC only lowers IOP while actively in the user’s system. With that in mind, patients should consider what form of marijuana consumption would be the most effective for them, including factors by preferred use and day-to-day living. If consuming via vaporization, the effects last for a much shorter period of time than other methods, so THC would have to be consumed more often to maintain the ideal IOP. Alternatively, ingestible forms of medical marijuana like capsules, tinctures, and RSO’s can be a good option because they last for a much longer period of time. Similarly, a patient’s tolerance and preferred effects are very important to consider when picking the right medical marijuana product to use for treatment.
Though the risks that are caused by glaucoma are severe, it can be managed to keep progression from getting that far. Medical marijuana can be a great option for many patients, but it is extremely important for patients interested in using medical marijuana for glaucoma treatment to speak with their doctors and come up with a plan or treatment option that will work best for them. The same goes for experienced patients; consider what works best for you and your body above all else.