THE EFFECT OF CANNABIS ON GLAUCOMA
WHAT IS GLAUCOMA?
Glaucoma is a condition that results due to a number of distinct eye diseases that lead to increased pressure within the eye. This group of ocular diseases are associated with progressive optic degeneration, which leads to the loss of visual function.
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of bilateral blindness in the world, after cataracts. This condition affects more than 60 million people worldwide and around 2 million people in the United States. The most common forms of this disease include:
- Primary open-angle glaucoma
- Angle-closure glaucoma
- Acute glaucoma
- Normal tension glaucoma
- Pigmentary glaucoma
- Trauma-related glaucoma
CAUSES AND RISK FACTORS OF GLAUCOMA
Research regarding the trigger of glaucoma is not conclusive. However, scientists have identified key factors that identify people who are at risk of developing glaucoma: increased intraocular pressure, age, family history, ethnicity, obesity and general high blood pressure.
Glaucoma is more prevalent among older individuals. Studies indicate that 1 % of people above the age of 60 have a common form of glaucoma. More than 9 % of individuals over the age of 80 develop the condition.
People of East Asian descent have an increased risk of developing angle closure glaucoma as a result of a shallower anterior chamber in the eye. A large percentage of glaucoma cases in this population exhibit forms of angle closure. Caribbean people of African origin and African Americans are significantly more prone to developing glaucoma as compared to other ethnic groups.
HOW FLORIDA MEDICAL MARIJUANA CAN RELIEVE EYE PRESSURE
Increased intraocular pressure (IOP) is the result of the blockage in the flow of aqueous humor (fluid that helps keep the rigid shape of the eye). Normally, this fluid circulates between the back of the cornea and the front of the lens. In individuals with elevated IOP, the flow of aqueous humor from the eye’s anterior chamber is restricted, causing a buildup of pressure. Researchers suspect that this decreases the flow of nutrients to the optic nerve. IOP is the main risk factor for glaucoma and the therapeutic effects of Florida medical marijuana is related to the reduction of IOP.
Research on the effects of marijuana on glaucoma date back to the 1970s. In 1971, a study by Hepler and Frank indicated that marijuana reduced IOP in the subjects by 25 to 30% when administered systemically for 3-4 hours. Since then, several studies have suggested the same effects for different cannabinoids such as cannabidiol, cannabigerol, and even synthetic cannabinoids.
The exact mechanism of these cannabinoids in the eye is not fully understood due to limited research. However, available evidence points to action outside the central nervous system (CNS). Topical application of cannabis has also been shown to be beneficial. A 1981 study revealed that THC infused light mineral oil that was administered topically resulted in a significant reduction in IOP in human participants.
There is also evidence that a synthetic, non-psychoactive cannabinoid compound called HU-211 may reduce IOP with effects lasting for more than 6 hours. These were the results of a 2000 study published in Graefe’s Archive for Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology. This compound does not stimulate cannabinoid receptors but inhibits NMDA receptors to reduce IOP. The study showed that synthetic cannabis may be useful in treating glaucoma while averting the inconvenient psychoactive side effects.
Florida medicinal cannabis can be effective in treating the symptoms associated with glaucoma including chronic pain, vomiting, nausea, and appetite. It is important to note that, although patients can relieve eye pressure with cannabis, it is not a cure for glaucoma since it does not address the underlying causes. As such, usage should be a compliment to the prescribed clinical treatment options recommended by physicians.