Cannabis and Glaucoma – What Do the Ophthalmologists Have To Say?


A common eye condition characterized by gradually damaging effects on the optic, glaucoma is known to affect your peripheral vision and might as well end up in complete and permanent vision loss if left untreated. There are almost 3 million glaucoma patients in the USA alone. This condition elevates the intraocular pressure, which further damages the optic nerve.

For over several decades, the only ways to control glaucoma’s damaging effects were invasive surgical and medical treatments. However, today, several natural remedies like medical cannabis are being subjected to studies to figure out whether they help or not. Following is a brief account of the effects of cannabis and glaucoma symptoms.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a medical condition that tends to develop optical disorders by damaging the optic nerve. It falls under the group of the most common eye disorders that ultimately lead to loss of vision. Generally, eye fluids are built up in the front area of the eye, which exerts pressure on the optic nerve. This pressure keeps on damaging the nerve and is generally termed intraocular pressure.

Glaucoma may also occur with normal eye pressure in some cases. If not treated well, it might result in permanent vision loss.

Types of Glaucoma:

Based on a series of factors, glaucoma is categorized into several types. Following are the most common ones:

  1. Open-angle Glaucoma:

Symptoms in this type of glaucoma develop gradually and take too long to appear. Sometimes the patients start losing their vision even before having any clues about the disease. Glaucoma patients are most commonly affected by open-angle glaucoma. This type of glaucoma is characterized by the following physical effects:

  • The cornea and iris form a drainage angle that remains open. However, there’s a partial blockage in the trabecular meshwork.
  • This leads to the development of pressure in the eye that tends to increase gradually. This consequently leads to damage to the optic nerve.
  1. Angle-closure Glaucoma

There are two sub-types of angle-closure glaucoma depending on whether it occurs suddenly or gradually.

  • Acute angle-closure glaucoma occurs suddenly and is generally considered a medical emergency.
  • Chronic angle-closure glaucoma develops over a period of time.

The cornea and iris make a drainage angle in your eye, which is blocked or narrowed down by the bulging of the iris in the forward direction. It consequently keeps the fluid from circulating, which further exacerbates the pressure. Some people naturally possess narrower drainage angles, making them more vulnerable to developing glaucoma.

  1. Normal-tension glaucoma

This kind of glaucoma is distinctly known for the fact that it doesn’t involve exerting abnormal pressure on the optic nerve. Declined blood supply to the optic nerve leads to normal-tension glaucoma.

Experts believe that one of the causes of this declined blood supply might be atherosclerosis which is characterized by fatty deposits in the arteries. Any condition resulting in impaired circulation may lead to this condition.

Risk Factors for Glaucoma:

As glaucoma makes you lose your vision even before you get to go for a diagnosis and treatment, you must be vigilant enough about the risk factors. When you know about the risk factors and your vulnerability to developing the condition, you can consider going for regular medical check-ups. You must be aware of the following risk factors.

  • Higher intraocular pressure is a common risk factor. Make sure to consider it at all times.
  • Aged people, generally the ones lying above the age of 60, are at a greater risk of developing glaucoma than the rest.
  • Surveys show that Hispanic, Asian, and black people tend to get glaucoma more commonly.
  • Medical conditions such as hypertension, sickle cell anemia, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes may also contribute to your condition.
  • People with a thinner center cornea are more likely to fall prey to glaucoma.
  • Extremely weak eyesight, either farsightedness or nearsightedness.
  • People who underwent a certain surgical procedure in the optic region or had been through an adverse injury are notably more vulnerable to glaucoma.
  • Long-term usage of medications that have corticosteroids.

Make sure to consider all these risk factors and never get ignorant of your vulnerability to develop glaucoma.

Symptoms of Glaucoma

Glaucoma doesn’t have any symptoms in the beginning. As much as it appears to be a positive factor, for the time being, It can prove to be disastrous in the long run. This is because patients generally do not have any idea until they reach the final stage of the disease and consequently lose their vision.

It takes several years to develop and starts affecting your peripheral vision slowly. People do not realize having glaucoma as it’s only diagnosable during a proper medical examination of the eye. Most people never visit a doctor for eye check-ups without having something wrong going on.

Sometimes, patients experience some minor symptoms such as seeing rainbow colors around lights and blurred vision. However, these symptoms are not strong enough to indicate anything serious.

It generally affects both of the eyes at the same time; however, symptoms might be worse in one of the eyes. Following are some of the symptoms:

  • Unbearably high level of pain in the affected eyes
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • The irritated eye that may appear red
  • Patients normally experience extreme headaches due to pressure in the region.
  • Areas around the eye start getting tender
  • Blurred vision.

What Are the Potential Causes of Glaucoma?

Well, the exact causes of glaucoma aren’t yet identified by the experts. It’s generally caused by some sort of functional disability of the optic region that leads to improper fluid drainage. It tends to build up pressure in the eye region.

This pressure keeps increasing with time and ultimately starts damaging the optic nerve that connects your brain to the eye, which leads to glaucoma. However, we lack hard facts regarding exactly why all this happens.

Experts strongly suggest that hereditary factors, too, play a significant role in causing glaucoma in patients. Most patients have at least one parent or sibling having glaucoma.

Cannabis and Glaucoma: How does it work?

Before we delve into whether cannabis helps patients with glaucoma, let’s see what cannabis is. Cannabis is a wondrous plant that’s been used for hundreds of years. The said plant is a complete powerhouse of several cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids. Its robust chemical makeup makes it structurally and functionally capable of interacting with various systems of your body.

The cannabinoids inside the cannabis plant can interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system. Intimately addressing various cannabinoid receptors and the hormonal productions in the endocrine and nervous system, it tends to help patients with several medical conditions. But how does cannabis benefit glaucoma patients?

  1. Neuroprotective properties

Anecdotal evidence suggests that Cannabinoids are rich in chemicals that may possess neuroprotective properties. This can help the patients deal with medical conditions such as glaucoma.

  1. Improved Blood Flow

Experts strongly suggest that Cannabinoids can effectively address blood circulation and increase blood flow to various significant parts of the optic region. Some experts believe that the effects of cannabis on the optic region might also help reverse the condition and not just improve the symptoms. [1]

  1. Management of pain

Glaucoma may cause severe pain in the eyes. Some patients have to face severe headaches as well. Cannabinoids in the cannabis plant may interact with the endocannabinoid system and cannabinoid receptors of the body to reduce these pain sensations.

Cannabis and Glaucoma: Research and Findings

As soon as cannabis found its way to the attention of medical researchers, it was subjected to several studies to see whether cannabis applies to various medical conditions or not. The research is still going on, and we presume there’s still more room for research. Several wonders of the cannabis plant are yet to be unleashed.

Here’s what researchers found out regarding cannabis and glaucoma:

  • In order to figure out whether there’s any relation between cannabis and glaucoma or not, researchers focus on the ability of cannabis to regulate circulation and maintain intraocular pressure. In order to find relevant evidence regarding cannabis and intraocular pressure, the experts performed several controlled trials in 2019. The results support that several cannabinoids of the cannabis plant, like THC, can reduce the intraocular pressure, which is the leading cause of most types of glaucoma. [2]
  • Another study unleashes the different effects of Cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol on the patients. Both are cannabinoids of the cannabis plant but tend to show different effects. CBD is known to increase the intraocular pressure; however, THC can reasonably lower the intraocular pressure. [3]

Final Thoughts:

Medical cannabis can be practically incorporated into the body to relieve symptoms of glaucoma. Research brings forth that it mainly addresses pain, intraocular pressure, and blood flow in the eye to help the patients. The facts regarding cannabis and glaucoma explain why patients look to natural remedies like cannabis for effective treatment.



Legal Disclaimer : Medical Cannabis Doctors does not provide medical services or medical advice. This information is for awareness purposes only and is NOT medical advice. Do not self diagnose or prescribe any forms of treatments based on this information or the information on this site. Always consult with a licensed physician in your state for any medical advice, treatments, prescriptions and medical services.

Like it ?

Share with your friends

Get insight to all things about cannabis

Whether you’ve got a question about our services, basic information about cannabis or something else entirely, please contact us and we are here to help. We will help you discover the benefits of cannabis and guide your cannabis journey.