Around the world, more than 60 million people suffer from glaucoma. Glaucoma sufferers typically have a buildup of fluid in the front eye region that puts pressure on the optic nerve. Left untreated, the nerve eventually suffers damage which leads to vision loss and blindness. Marijuana has become a treatment for glaucoma sufferers because it reduces the pressure within the eye. Many people who cannot tolerate the standard eye drop treatments choose to use cannabis to control the disorder.

Types of Glaucoma

There are three main types of glaucoma; open-angle, angle-closure, and normal-tension.

  • Angle-closure: Angle-closure glaucoma (also referred to as narrow-angle) is more prevalent in Asians. It affects the area located between the cornea and the iris. The narrow passageways cause pressure to build up as fluid accumulates.
  • Open-angle: Sufferers of open-angle (also sometimes called wide-angle) appear to have normal eye ducts but the fluid still refuses to drain.
  • Normal-tension glaucoma: This is a sneaky form of glaucoma. The sufferer’s optic nerve becomes damaged but there is no buildup of pressure or improper drainage.

Symptoms of Glaucoma

The symptoms of glaucoma vary and depend on the form.

Standard symptoms include:

  • Patchy blind spots in one or both eyes
  • Eye pain
  • Tunnel vision
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Eye redness
  • Blurred vision
  • Halos around lights
  • Blindness

Glaucoma Treatment Options

Traditionally, treatment of glaucoma has involved prescription medications and surgical procedures. However, many people opt to take a natural route and use medicinal marijuana. Researchers have found that the cannabinoids in marijuana reduce intraocular pressure (IOP) every bit as well as conventional glaucoma medication. A bonus of taking marijuana to treat glaucoma is that it also helps relieve the symptoms of the disorder such as pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Marijuana to Treat Glaucoma

To treat glaucoma, cannabis must be smoked or ingested orally. Unfortunately, when smoked, the IOP lasts for about three hours, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). Also, when applied topically to the eye the cannabis is ineffective.

CBD and HU-211 Cannabinoids and Glaucoma

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the cannabinoid found in marijuana that causes a psychoactive response. Many glaucoma sufferers do not wish to go through their day feeling ‘high’ and unable to function at work or while driving an auto. Researchers at the Department of Ophthalmology at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, the University of Aberdeen in the UK have found that the cannabinoids HU-211 and cannabidiol (CBD), which have no psychoactive effects, also reduce the IOP within the eye. This could be a groundbreaking discovery in the treatment of glaucoma using cannabis. However, clearly, further research is needed before a glaucoma sufferer can solely use marijuana to treat the disorder. Currently, prescription medications and surgery remain the best treatment options that offer the greatest chance for a normal day-to-day lifestyle.

If you are suffering from glaucoma and want to explore medical marijuana as a treatment option, then you should consult with your physician to discuss the benefits and drawbacks. Many physicians are choosing to combine the use of cannabis with conventional glaucoma treatments.