the truth about marijuana and glaucoma

there is a lot of focus in the u.s. and around the world on the potentially helpful aspects of using marijuana in medicine. much of the research is promising, although there are risks and unknowns when it comes to medical marijuana.

one specific area where there’s attention is on marijuana and glaucoma.

so, does marijuana help glaucoma? below is more information on this condition, and also specifics on marijuana and glaucoma and their potential relationship to one another.

what is glaucoma?

before looking at the particulars of marijuana and glaucoma and answering “does marijuana help glaucoma,” what is this condition?

glaucoma is a disease that affects the optic nerve and can ultimately lead to loss of vision and blindness. in most people, glaucoma affects both eyes, although some people may experience the condition being worse in one eye. there are two primary categories of glaucoma. the first is open-angle and the second is closed-angle.

with closed-angle glaucoma, the person will usually have relatively sudden pain and vision loss, but since there is a lot of pain with this type, the person usually gets medical treatment quickly so it can help prevent permanent damage.

with primary open-angle glaucoma, also often called chronic glaucoma, there is a slow progression, and many symptoms aren’t noticed including minimal vision loss. because of how slowly this progresses people often don’t get treatment for the condition until there’s already permanent damage.

one of the primary reasons people feel pain when they have glaucoma is because of the high levels of pressure in the eye.

the goal of most treatments for glaucoma is to improve how fluid flows from the eye, to reduce the production of fluid or a combination of both.

the first treatments usually given for glaucoma are eye drops, but they can have unpleasant side effects such as rarely retinal detachment or breathing problems. there are also surgery options if medicines don’t work and they can include surgery to unblock drainage canals, filtering surgery to open eye channels and drainage implants.

so, does marijuana help glaucoma?

marijuana and glaucoma

a lot of people wonder does marijuana help glaucoma?

medical marijuana has been linked to glaucoma for decades, and there were studies that showed that marijuana could help reduce the intraocular pressure people with glaucoma experience. with that being said, research showed that marijuana could only temporarily reduce the eye pressure of glaucoma. in fact, most research shows that with marijuana and glaucoma, the effects of the marijuana last only a few hours, and this is one of the biggest reasons marijuana might not be the best treatment for glaucoma.

glaucoma needs around-the-clock treatment, so it would require that someone use marijuana throughout the day to really get the benefits.

of course, with this comes the consideration that marijuana can alter your behavior and perception, and there are side effects that come with its use.

another reason a lot of researchers are rethinking the conventional wisdom about the relationship between marijuana and glaucoma is because there is some evidence coming to light that glaucoma may also be a neurological disease that comes from a reduced level of blood flow to the optic nerve. marijuana lowers blood pressure, which can result in even less blood flow to the optic nerve.

with marijuana and glaucoma, it’s not seen as an ideal treatment for early-stage patients.

however, even with that being said, with late-stage glaucoma, marijuana is often more encouraged as a treatment. the reason is because during late stage glaucoma the objective isn’t necessarily to treat it because the long-term damage has likely already been done. instead, marijuana may be used to help treat the accompanying symptoms and discomfort. for example, marijuana could help with the pain and nausea that can be associated with late-stage glaucoma.

there is likely to be continuing research on marijuana and glaucoma, because of the role cannabinoid receptors play in ocular tissue. it may be that in the future researchers are able to develop cannabis-based medicines that are more effective in helping with earlier stage glaucoma.

summing up—does marijuana help glaucoma?

so, does marijuana help glaucoma? as it stands right now, marijuana isn’t the preferred treatment for glaucoma, particularly when it’s in its early stages. first, with marijuana and glaucoma the effects are very short-lived, so they’re not very practical. also, there are risks and side effects that can come with the use of marijuana.

right now with marijuana and glaucoma doctors are more likely to recommend it when glaucoma has reached later stages, and the marijuana can be used as a way to help the patient cope with the side effects.

that doesn’t mean there isn’t a future for marijuana and glaucoma, especially as researchers are looking at cannabinoid-based medicines that could have positive future implications.

What is A Comprehensive Eye Exam?

Periodic eye and vision examinations are an important part of preventive health care. Many eye and vision problems have no obvious signs or symptoms, so you might not know a problem exists. Early diagnosis and treatment of eye and vision problems can help prevent vision loss.

Each patient’s signs and symptoms, along with your optometrist’s professional judgment, will determine what tests your optometrist conducts. A comprehensive adult eye and vision examination may include, but is not limited to, the following tests.

Patient History
The doctor will ask about any eye or vision problems you are currently having and about your overall health. In addition, a patient history will include when your eye or vision symptoms began, medications you are taking, and any work-related or environmental conditions that may be affecting your vision. The doctor will also ask about any previous eye or health conditions you and your family members have experienced.

Visual Acuity
Visual acuity measurements evaluate how clearly each eye is seeing. Reading charts are often used to measure visual acuity. As part of the testing, you will read letters on charts at a distance and near.

The results of visual acuity testing are written as a fraction, such as 20/40. The top number in the fraction is the standard distance at which testing is done (20 feet). The bottom number is the smallest letter size you were able to read. A person with 20/40 visual acuity would have to get within 20 feet to see a letter that should be seen clearly at 40 feet. Normal distance visual acuity is 20/20.

Preliminary Tests
An optometrist may first want to look at specific aspects of your visual function and eye health. Preliminary tests can include evaluations of depth perception, color vision, eye muscle movements, peripheral or side vision, and the way your pupils respond to light.

Keratometry
This test measures the curvature of the cornea (the clear outer surface of the eye) by focusing a circle of light on the cornea and measuring its reflection. This measurement is particularly critical in determining the proper fit for contact lenses.

Refraction
Refraction determines the lens power you need to compensate for any refractive error (nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism). Using an instrument called a phoropter, your optometrist places a series of lenses in front of your eyes. He or she then measures how these lenses focus light using a handheld lighted instrument called a retinoscope. Your doctor may choose to use an instrument that automatically evaluates the focusing power of the eye. The lens power is then refined based your input on the lenses that give you the clearest vision.

Eye Health Evaluation
Your optometrist may need to perform additional tests based on the results of the previous tests. These tests can help confirm or rule out possible problems, clarify uncertain findings or provide a more in-depth assessment.

At the completion of the examination, your optometrist will evaluate all the test results to determine a diagnosis. He or she will discuss with you any visual or eye health problems and explain treatment options. In some cases, your optometrist may refer you to another optometrist or other health care provider for consultation or treatment.

Supplemental testing
Additional testing may be needed based on the results of the previous tests to confirm or rule out possible problems, to clarify uncertain findings, or to provide a more in-depth assessment.

At the completion of the examination, your optometrist will assess and evaluate the results of the testing to determine a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan. He or she will discuss with you the nature of any visual or eye health problems found and explain available treatment options. In some cases, referral for consultation with, or treatment by, another optometrist or other health care provider may be indicated.

November is National Diabetes Month

If you are one of more than 25 million Americans with diabetes, you may already know the importance of watching your diet and keeping track of your blood sugar. But did you know it’s also important to have regular eye exams?

In the United States, diabetic eye disease is the leading cause of vision loss among working-age adults. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common form of this disease, and affects about 28.5 percent of Americans with diabetes age 40 and older. That’s more than 7 million people, and the number is expected to reach more than 11 million by the year 2030.

The condition can creep up quietly. It gradually weakens small blood vessels in and around the retina, the light-sensing layer of tissue at the back of the eye. If the disease progresses, these vessels may rupture and leak blood into the eye; they can also spread and grow on the surface of the retina and cause scarring.

Typically, diabetic retinopathy has no symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage. But the disease can be detected early through a comprehensive dilated eye exam. In this procedure, an eye professional will put drops in your eye to dilate (widen) the pupil, which allows a closer look at the retina.

The good news is that with early detection, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up, the risk of severe vision loss from diabetic retinopathy can be reduced by 95 percent. There are several effective treatment options including laser surgery and injections of anti-VEGF drugs. These drugs block the actions of a protein that can cause abnormal blood vessels to grow and leak fluid.

November is National Diabetes Month. If you have diabetes, it’s a good time to remember these health tips:

  • Get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year.
  • Control your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. By controlling your diabetes, you’ll reduce your risk of diabetic eye disease.
  • Talk to your eye care professional about diabetic retinopathy.
  • Learn more about diabetic eye disease from the National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health.
  • Learn more about preventing and managing diabetes from the National Diabetes Education Program.