Glaucoma Can Be Eased Considerably By Cannabis Use
Glaucoma can strike people of all ages but is most often found among those over 65. The most common form of glaucoma is chronic or open-angle glaucoma. It is characterized by increased pressure within the eye (intraocular pressure or IOP) which can cause damage to the optic nerve if not controlled effectively. Other types of glaucoma include narrow-angle and secondary. Treatment of narrow-angle glaucoma is primarily surgical. In approximately 90% of the open-angle and secondary glaucomas topical (eyedrop) preparations along with some oral medications can effectively control the disease, but at least 10% of all cases fail to be completely controlled by available prescriptive drugs.
In some instances available glaucomic medications can cause side-effects such as headaches, kidney stones, burning of the eyes, blurred vision, cardiac arrhythmias, insomnia, and nervous anxiety. These side-effects may become so severe that the patient must discontinue use. Marijuana has shown promise as a possible glaucoma treatment in numerous published studies.
In controlled studies at UCLA, it was discovered that patients smoking marijuana experienced, on average, a 30% drop in eye pressure. The reduction was dose related and lasted 4 to 5 hours. Dr. Robert Hepler, principal investigator in the UCLA study, concluded that cannabis may be more useful than conventional medications and may reduce eye pressure in a way that conventional medications do not, thus making marijuana a potential additive to the glaucoma patient’s regimen of available medication.
Tolerance to conventional medications is a common problem in glaucoma control. The use of marijuana for additional IOP reduction could eliminate the need for surgical intervention. Glaucoma surgery costs Americans an estimated $8.8 million per year. Scientists have been working to develop a marijuana eyedrop for several years. Until recently, they concentrated on delta-9-THC, marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient. Some researchers, however, have begun to wonder if other constituents in the cannabis plant might be more effective in reducing IOP.
This theory is bolstered by the few glaucoma patients who have continued, legal access to marijuana. In these cases, synthetic THC is only effective for a short period of time. Natural marijuana, however, consistently lowers IOP. A number of pharmaceutical companies are investigating drugs that are chemically similar to various constituents of cannabis for possible glaucomic applications.
A West Indies pharmaceutical company has developed a synthetic marijuana eyedrop but this is unavailable in the U.S. …… The human eyeball is filled with fluid, which exerts pressure to keep the eyeball spherical. Glaucoma is a condition where the channels through which the fluid flows gradually become blocked, and the intraocular pressure gradually increases, causing increasing damage to the optic nerve, and gradual deterioration of vision.
Glaucoma is the second-largest cause of blindness, and affects 1.5 % of 50-year olds and 5 % of seventy-year olds. Standard treatments have unpleasant or dangerous side effects, and have little effect on intraocular pressures in end-stage glaucoma. Cannabis however lowers intraocular pressures dramatically, with none of the serious side effects.
Patients who find that standard medicines do not help their conditions report that smoking cannabis quickly restores their vision. Many long-term glaucoma patients have successfully maintained their sight using cannabis for 20 or 25 years, and avoided the gradual painful deterioration to blindness that is otherwise inevitable. However older generations, who are most at risk of glaucoma do not appreciate the euphoric side effects of smoked or ingested cannabis. There is also concern about the effects on the cardio-vasculat system. There is hope that a cannabis-containing eyedrop could be developed in the future which would have no side effects but this is made difficult since cannabinoids are not water soluble. Ironically the discovery that cannabis lowers intraocular pressure was made accidentally during a police experiment. They were trying to discover if cannabis caused pupil dilation in users, so that they could detect and arrest them more easily!