About Glaucoma

Glaucoma refers to a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve resulting in vision loss and blindness. The optic nerve connects the retina to the brain. It’s what transforms light, in the form of photons, into electric impulses, which are sent to the brain, where they are interpreted into visual perception.


There are two major types of glaucoma. Primary open-angle and Angle-closure glaucoma, or closed-angle glaucoma. Primary open-angle glaucoma, POAG, is painless and, doesn’t affect the vision until later stages of the disease. Close-angles glaucoma refers to a medical condition in which the iris covers the drainage angle of the eye. It can occur suddenly in an acute attack or even happen over time, known as chronic angle-closure.


According to the WHO, Glaucoma is the 2nd leading cause of blindness in the world and is 6 to 8 times more likely in those of African descent. In the U.S., it’s estimated that over 3 million people have glaucoma, and only half of them know it. There is no cure for Glaucoma, it’s a lifelong condition, and may even occur with no symptoms.


What Causes Glaucoma

Elevated eye pressure, or intraocular pressure, is the biggest risk factor and indicator of Glaucoma. A clear fluid called, aqueous humor, flows continuously in and out of the front of the eye, or anterior chamber. The aqueous humor flows out of the anterior chamber and drains through the open angle where the cornea and iris meet. If the fluid is not produced correctly or doesn’t drain properly, it can cause pressure in the eye to build up leading to optic nerve damage and vision loss.


Individuals have varying tolerances to intraocular pressure and some may not develop glaucoma from elevated IOP levels. These people may be diagnosed as having intraocular hypertension. Glaucoma may still develop without elevated IOP. This is called low-tension glaucoma. Another leading cause of Glaucoma is the condition, Exfoliation syndrome, a systemic condition in which a fibrillar extracellular substance is deposited in various ocular structures.  


Normal Treatments for Glaucoma

There are no cures for Glaucoma, but physicians make efforts to prevent or reduce the intraocular pressure that can damage the optic nerve with a variety of medications. A comparative list of forty-eight different medications for Intraocular Hypertension can be found at Drugs.com. It appears that no one medication can lower IOP without harmful effects, worsening the condition, or being unaffordable.


Dr. Kenji Inoue discusses the management of adverse effects of glaucoma medications in his recently published paper in the journal, Clinical Ophthalmology. Dr. Inoue describes that preservative compounds common to glaucoma eye drop, such as benzalkonium chloride, cause superficial punctate keratitis, corneal erosion, conjunctival allergy, and conjunctival injection. He writes that glaucoma medications can cause adverse reactions including bradycardia, decreased blood pressure, irregular pulse, and asthma attacks. Also presented in the paper are findings that suggest the drugs to cause depression, nausea, anemia, kidney stones, anorexia, and abdominal pain.


Strangely, research shows that many glaucoma patients aren’t helped by their medications, and the drugs could even worsen their ocular health. Studies point to the medications inducing insomnia, trembling, even taste and GI disorders. Most glaucoma medications work in some way or another to alter the biological process by which aqueous humor is produced in the eye.


How Medical Marijuana Can Help Glaucoma

Since the 1970’s, marijuana has been known to be able to reduce intraocular eye pressure. In particular, the active compound [THC]. Thanks to the researcher's Helper and Frank in 1971, we learned that marijuana can reduce not only eye pressure but also blood pressure.


The British Journal of Ophthalmology published a lengthy paper on Cannabinoids and Glaucoma in 2004. In the article, they point to compounds found in cannabis that activate the [endocannabinoid system] receptors, such as CB1 and CB2. These receptors act to regulate various systems of the body including pain management, sleep, mood, appetite, and immunity. The paper interestingly cites studies suggesting that THC may actually help prevent the development of glaucoma by stopping a cascade of events inhibiting retinal ganglion cell death.


Researchers also point to several studies proving the antioxidant properties of [cannabinoids]. These findings are further supported by the recent discovery that THC helps to prevent the buildup of Tau proteins in the brain that can lead to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.


While medical marijuana will not cure ocular hypertension or glaucoma, it will help to reduce IOP and offer relief from symptoms. Future, long-term studies into THC could yield medicines that could prevent the onset of conditions like glaucoma and Alzheimer’s.


Medical marijuana will affect individuals uniquely according to various factors. Speak with a physician and medical marijuana professional about beginning to use cannabis to treat severe conditions. Find linked below a list of medical marijuana strains that have been reported to help patients with eye pressure and glaucoma.


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Glaucoma Research Foundation (2016) Glaucoma Facts and Stats. Web

Inoue, Kenji. (2014) Clinical Ophthalmology. Managing adverse effects of glaucoma medications.

Tomida, I. (2004) British Journal of Ophthalmology. Cannabinoids and glaucoma.

Aso, Ester (2104) Frontiers in Pharmacology. Cannabinoids for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease: moving toward the clinic.

Top Strains That May Help With Glaucoma