Read this article by The Medical Cannabis Clinics and book a consultation call to discover more information about using medical cannabis for treating your glaucoma today.

Key Points

  • Medical cannabis is a broad term describing any form of cannabis-based medication used to alleviate various symptoms. It has been a legal prescription medication since 2018 in the UK. 
  • Glaucoma is a common eye condition when the optic nerve is damaged. Generally, it is caused by fluid build-up in the front section of the eye and, if not tackled fast, can lead to vision loss and even blindness.
  • There are several argued benefits of the use of medical cannabis for glaucoma, including that cannabis is believed to have neuroprotective qualities, is believed to have fewer side effects than other options, and is seen as a more natural choice. 
  • Studies looking into medical cannabis for glaucoma have found indications that it could reduce IOP to great effect and could increase blood flow to essential structures in the eye.
  • While there are several potential risks and side effects to using medical cannabis for glaucoma, it is important to note that there are risks and side effects with any other medical option for glaucoma. The primary risk is attributed to the fact that medical cannabis’s duration of action is thought to be too short to truly assist with glaucoma, but more research is required to substantiate this.
  • If you would like to explore your options regarding medical cannabis for glaucoma, book a remote consultation call with experts at The Medical Cannabis Clinics today.
Glass dropper bottle of cannabis oil with marijuana plants and yellow background

What is Medical Cannabis?

Medical cannabis is an umbrella term for any type of cannabis-based medication used to alleviate various symptoms. In the UK, medical cannabis has been a legal prescription medication since 2018. However many cannabis-based products can be bought on the internet, but the content and quality of these products are not always known. Therefore, they could be illegal in the UK as well as potentially hazardous. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you engage the services of an established medical cannabis practice to consult with a specialist and get an official prescription for medical cannabis. 

Medical cannabisis grown, produced, and packaged under extremely strict conditions to create a medical-grade product. It will contain numerous compounds, from cannabinoids (including CBD, THC, and more) to terpenes. It is illegal to smoke medical cannabis, so it can be bought as an oil to be taken sublingually or as a flower which can be vaped. Different variations of medical cannabis will have different amounts of cannabidiol (CBD) and psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to help assist different conditions. 

Medical cannabis can be taken to help alleviate various conditions where other medications have failed to help. One condition it is thought to assist with is glaucoma.

Glaucoma. Detailed anatomy of Glaucoma and healthy eye.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a common eye condition. It occurs when the optic nerve (which connects the eye to the brain) is damaged. Usually, fluid building up in the front section of the eye can cause glaucoma, increasing pressure inside the eye. If this condition is not diagnosed and tackled fast, it can lead to vision loss or even blindness. Glaucoma can affect people of any age but is generally more present in elderly adults in their 70s or 80s.

Generally, glaucoma does not initially cause any symptoms and the condition develops gradually over many years. It affects the patient’s peripheral vision first, so it can easily go unnoticed for some time. When symptoms are present, they usually include seeing rainbow-coloured circles around bright lights or blurry vision. Usually, both the eyes are affected by glaucoma, but it can be worse in one eye. Very rarely, it can develop fast and cause symptoms such as red eyes, headaches, eye tenderness, nausea and vomiting. 

There are numerous forms of glaucoma. The most common form is called primary open-angle glaucoma and is caused by drainage channels in the eye getting slowly clogged up over time. Certain aspects of your life can increase the chances of getting glaucoma, including your age, family history (it can be genetic), ethnicity (African, Caribbean and Asian people are most at risk), and any other medical conditions you might have, including diabetes or short-sightedness.

Glaucoma causes increased IOP (intraocular pressure), damaging the optic nerve and can weaken vision over time. Therefore, reducing IOP is the most essential tactic for decreasing the risk of contracting this condition as well as helping to ease any symptoms of glaucoma itself. Some experts believe that medical cannabis may help with IOP reduction, among other benefits.

Can Medical Cannabis Help With Glaucoma Symptoms?

Argued Benefits of Medical Cannabis for Glaucoma

  • Some evidence has suggested that cannabinoids have neuroprotective properties.
  • Medical cannabis for glaucoma is thought to have fewer side effects than other options.
  • Medical cannabis is argued to provide better relief from glaucoma symptoms and discomfort.
  • Using medical cannabis is thought to reduce the need for surgery.
  • Medical cannabis is seen by many as a more ‘natural’ option in tackling glaucoma.

Research Studies into Medical Cannabis and Glaucoma 

While research into medical cannabis and glaucoma is still underway, and more scientific evidence is needed for us to have a total understanding of the correlation between the two, studies conducted so far have indicated promise. However, medical cannabishas a distinct lack of scientific studies, and more research is needed before concrete conclusions can be drawn. Below are a few examples of studies examining the relationship between medical cannabis and glaucoma, and their findings. 

  • According to a review published by authors Mack and Joy in the year 2000, numerous clinical studies found that cannabinoids or marijuana can reduce IOP as effectively as many conventional glaucoma medications. This was found to be true regardless of whether the cannabinoids were taken orally, by inhalation, or intravenously (although not when applied directly to the eye).
  • In a 2019 review, five randomised controlled trials were undertaken, and again some evidence was found that cannabis could lower IOP. However, it is important to mention that none of these studies compared cannabis against standard glaucoma medication, sample sizes were limited, and the data was somewhat conflicting.
  • According to several animal studies, cannabinoids may have the ability to increase blood flow to essential structures in the eye. It is believed that these findings suggest that medical cannabis could help to reverse glaucoma and not just manage symptoms.

Potential Side Effects and Risks of Medical Cannabis 

It is impossible to know the full extent of medical cannabis’s benefits and risks because research is still being undertaken. This is why some ophthalmic organisations will not recommend cannabis, as further evidence is needed to illustrate its true potential. But, it is crucial to bear in mind that any choice you make to tackle glaucoma can cause side effects, and this is not exclusive to medical cannabis by any means. Furthermore, side effects vary from person to person. However, some potential side effects and risks of medical cannabis that you would be sensible to be aware of are listed below:

  • The AAO (American Academy of Ophthalmology) states that while cannabis may be able to decrease IOP, its duration of action is arguably too short-lived to truly help with glaucoma, and a patient would have to take substantial quantities to gain benefits from it. The AAO has also warned that there may be evidence to suggest cannabis can harm the optic nerve, but again, more research is required to confirm or deny this.
  • It has been argued that cannabis may decrease fertility in males and could cause complications in pregnant women who use cannabis.
  • It is possible that cannabis use may cause mental health issues.
  • A very small body of research has indicated that cannabis products might damage cells in the eye, but this has not been officially proven.
Close-up of woman holding craft package with cannabis. Green leaf sign on container. Female with beautiful bright manicure. Medicine and healthcare concept

Book a Consultation Call about Medical Cannabis for Glaucoma

If you are considering medical cannabis to help alleviate symptoms of glaucoma, it is highly recommended that you consult with professionals in the field. These experts can candidly explain whether you qualify for a medical cannabis prescription, explain your various options, and alleviate any concerns or questions you may have. The Medical Cannabis Clinics is the biggest clinic specialising in improving access to and prescribing medical cannabis relief in the UK and Jersey. It advocates medical cannabis as a vital means of combating chronic illnesses where current medication has not increased the quality of life of patients. As experts, The Medical Cannabis Clinics can assess your situation and determine whether medical cannabis is the best option for you. You can book a remote appointment with us and speak with a doctor to discuss your options today.

FAQs

Can you take CBD oil if you have glaucoma?

You can, although it is highly recommended that you consult with a professional beforehand to ensure it is the best option for you. It is also important to source your CBD from a reputable company, such as medical clinics.

What cannabinoid helps with glaucoma?

Numerous cannabinoids can help with glaucoma, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is argued to be particularly beneficial.

Does CBD oil raise intraocular pressure?

More research is needed before conclusive reports can be made. However, numerous studies have found that CBD can help to lower IOP as effectively as many other conventional glaucoma medications.

What helps glaucoma go away?

There are several ways that you can work to tackle glaucoma. This can sometimes include laser therapy, eye drops, oral medications, and medical cannabis if you qualify.

Resources

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/marijuana-and-glaucoma
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/medical-cannabis/
MARIJUANA AND GLAUCOMA – Marijuana as Medicine? – NCBI Bookshelf
https://dalspace.library.dal.ca/bitstream/handle/10222/78955/9830-17586-1-SM.pdf?sequence=1
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK572112/
https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/medical-marijuana-glaucoma-treament
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK572112/