Glaucoma and Medical Marijuana
Image from http://mycompassion.org/PatientGlaucoma
Glaucoma is a group of disorders that damage the eye’s optic nerve and can result in loss of vision or blindness. The damage is done when the intraocular pressure (inner eye pressure, or IOP) rises to a point where eye fluid cannot be drained, this clogs up the drainage channels leading to your eye, and damages the optic nerve. Glaucoma disorders can be divided into two main categories: “open-angle” and “closed-angle” (or angle closure) glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common of the two categories and is marked by slow onset and often a diagnosis after a loss of vision is noticed. Closed-angle glaucoma is more likely to appear suddenly and be painful. Although this type of ‘attack’ is considered a medical emergency, the pain associated with this type of glaucoma typically causes patients to seek help before permanent damage occurs. Because lost field of vision cannot be recovered, most glaucoma treatment is aimed at slowing down progression of the illness.
Luckily, the human eye expresses high levels of CB1 cannabinoid receptors – making medical marijuana a successful complementary therapy to conventional treatment that includes eye drops, laser treatment, and surgery. Although the Glaucoma Research Foundation does not support the use of medical marijuana in lowering IPO because of its relatively short effective period (4 hours), and because of it’s psychoactive properties, for years studies have shown cannabis has a positive lowering effect on IPO. In an interesting note, the 3-4 hour effective period, which is quoted in multiple expert sites including the Glaucoma Research Foundation, dates to a 1980 study which used 2% marijuana. To the 2.2 million Americans who are living with glaucoma, and the suspected 60 million worldwide, medical marijuana with today’s 16-22% THC content might be a much more effective treatment than suspected.
If you, or someone you know, is suffering from glaucoma certain cannabis strains may alleviate symptoms better than others. Cannabigerol (CBG), one of the 480 cannabinoids found in cannabis, has been found to be highly effective in lowering IPO, and breeders are now selecting for strains high in this compound to help glaucoma patients. According to self-submitted answers on Leafly.com, hybrids between indica and sativa strains seem to work best at regulating eye pressure. Some of the most popular strains for glaucoma treatment are Lemon Wreck, Shoreline, Hawaiian Snow and many Diesel varieties.