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Glaucoma and Medicinal Cannabis

Glaucoma refers to a group of eye conditions that are characterised by an increase in intraocular pressure, causing irreversible damage to the optic nerve.

Although glaucoma is common, if it goes undiagnosed and untreated it can eventually lead to blindness. In general, glaucoma is a very gradual degenerative disease and as a result regular eye examinations are recommended for anyone above the age of 30.

There are 4 types of glaucoma:

  • Open angle — although the problem isn't obvious or even noticeable, the fluid pressure of the eye begins to build up
  • Angle closure — the fluid in the eye stops circulating which causes the pressure to rise quickly resulting in pain and a sudden loss of vision
  • Normal pressure — when the eye pressure hasn't changed but the optic nerve still experiences damage
  • Secondary — where glaucoma arises after inflammation, injury, or surgery to the eye

What are the symptoms of Glaucoma?

Glaucoma can physically manifest in a range of ways, including:

  • Severe headaches
  • Eye pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Halos around lights
  • Eye redness

Factors that may increase your risk of developing Glaucoma:

  • Family history of glaucoma
  • High eye pressure
  • Above the age of 50
  • Are short-sighted or long-sighted
  • Using cortisone (steroid) medications for long periods
  • Have diabetes
  • Have high or low blood pressure
  • Have migraine headaches
  • Have had an eye operation or eye injury

How can medicinal cannabis help with Glaucoma?

Studies conducted in 1971 showed that 65% of test patients with glaucoma experienced a 30% decrease in intraocular pressure after using medicinal cannabis, with effects lasting three to four hours after dosage administration. The reason behind the drop in intraocular pressure is how the THC component binds to the CB1 receptors in the eye, reducing aqueous outflow and as a result lowering overall pressure. 

Unlike other conditions treatable by medicinal cannabis, glaucoma does not rely on THC interacting with the central nervous system, instead the reaction happens in the eye itself which makes eyedrops a plausible option for administration. 

Some of the cannabis products that have shown to be beneficial treatments to Glaucoma sufferers include:

  • Nabiximols
  • Dronbinol
  • THC extracts
  • Cannabis Sativa
  • Cannabis Indica

They can be consumed as an oil, vape liquid, sprays and wafers.

If you or a loved one are suffering from Glaucoma and are considering medicinal cannabis as a potential treatment, please speak to your GP or to one of our SAS accredited doctors here.