Does Marijuana Really Help Treat Glaucoma?

Medical marijuana is a popular treatment for a variety of maladies. Glaucoma, a disease of the optic nerve which can lead to vision loss and blindness, is often understood to be one of them. But while medical marijuana maintains several therapeutic uses, it is ineffective in the management of glaucoma.

Glaucoma is treated with medicated eyedrops to lower the pressure within the eye.  Marijuana can also lower this pressure. The problem is that marijuana also lowers blood pressure. This can have negative effects on the optic nerve, the structure damaged by the high pressure in glaucoma.

Another problem with marijuana is the pressure lowering effect lasts only three to four hours. This short duration means that a user needs to consume the drug about six to eight times a day to effectively keep eye pressure low.

Unfortunately, the same ingredient in marijuana that lowers eye pressure also produces a high. For most people, controlling their glaucoma with a mind and mood altering drug that needs to be used every three to four hours is not a very good idea.

Marijuana impairs the ability to perform complex tasks such as driving, operating heavy machinery and functioning at maximum mental capacity. Medical marijuana, if smoked, also contains hundreds of compounds that damage the lungs. Chronic, frequent use can also damage the brain.

These concerns and limitations lead the ophthalmology community to conclude that recommending marijuana to treat glaucoma is not in our patients’ best interest.

A comprehensive eye exam is the best way to diagnose and treat glaucoma. Depending on the severity of the condition, your ophthalmologist may recommend treatment ranging from prescription eye drops to laser treatments to surgery.

January 4, 2019

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