Benefits of cbd oil for glaucoma
The term glaucoma covers several eye diseases that involve high fluid pressure and damage to the ocular nerve, leading to vision loss.
Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type. This is a progressive, chronic disease that leads to tunnel vision and eventually blindness if it is not treated. Other types of glaucoma may develop suddenly, and some even constitute a medical emergency and require immediate surgery.
Most people who develop glaucoma will not notice symptoms. An optometrist or ophthalmologist will diagnose high fluid pressure during your regular eye exam and conduct further tests to measure any potential vision loss. Then, your eye doctor will recommend medical treatment like eye drops or surgery to reduce your vision loss. While you cannot recover lost vision, you can slow the progression of open-angle glaucoma.
Eye specialists continually search for better treatments to slow the progression of chronic forms of glaucoma. The first study examining marijuana’s impact on glaucoma occurred in 1971. It found a 30 percent overall decrease in eye pressure among participants who smoked a marijuana cigarette an hour before undergoing an eye exam.
Since then, this and related studies have been used to promote now-legal medical marijuana like cannabidiol (CBD) to treat glaucoma. However, this treatment is not recommended by medical professionals.
Can Medical Marijuana or CBD Help Glaucoma Symptoms?
Medical professionals agree that marijuana, including CBD, is not an effective treatment for glaucoma. This means that, even if medical marijuana is legal in your state, your optometrist or ophthalmologist will not prescribe it as a medical treatment for this condition.
First, glaucoma must be managed 24 hours a day, and no form of marijuana is a practical treatment for ongoing management of any condition. The drug’s effects only last a few hours, while many chronic conditions require medication that lasts at least half the day.
Additionally, there is little medical research into how marijuana affects glaucoma. The research that does exist suggests that the drug does not help eye pressure for long, and it can be detrimental to the condition over time.
Finally, it is well known that marijuana is an addictive substance. While it may not be more harmful than alcohol, it is a drug that causes intoxication, impaired judgment, and changes in brain chemistry and structure that impact the rest of your life.
The Science of Marijuana’s Impact on Glaucoma
While there were some studies in the 1970s and 1980s that found marijuana could lower intraocular pressure, the real association between the drug and glaucoma treatment occurred due to a landmark medical marijuana court case in 1974.
A man named Robert Randall, who was 26 years old with high intraocular pressure and poorly treated glaucoma (unusual for his age) reported that the halos he saw around lights, which were a symptom of his eye condition, decreased when he smoked marijuana. He began to grow his own pot so he would have access to “medicine” that seemed to work for him. Soon, he faced federal criminal charges for growing the illegal plant, but he was able to persuade the federal judge that he needed marijuana as a medical treatment.
California became the first state to legalize marijuana in any form, in 1996. Glaucoma treatment was cited as one of the potential conditions that medical marijuana could help.
Although CBD has more recently been associated with medical marijuana, the chemical that works on intraocular pressure is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This chemical has been shown to lower intraocular pressure by 60 to 65 percent in anyone, including people who have glaucoma. One study found that, over the course of marijuana’s primary effects on the body, IOP lowered 25 percent overall. This could seem to help glaucoma patients, but it is not a long-term solution due how THC is metabolized.
THC’s peak effects in the body last for three to four hours. For any medical marijuana treatment to be effective for glaucoma, you would need to take a dose several times a day. Not only is this disruptive to work, school, or a regular daily routine, it also means you will be consistently intoxicated, which can be very dangerous. Marijuana, especially types high in THC, is addictive.
Short-term effects of marijuana include:
- Altered senses, like seeing brighter colors.
- Altered sense of time.
- Changes in mood.
- Impaired body movement.
- Difficulty thinking clearly.
- Problems with memory.
- Trouble solving problems.
- Hallucinations, delusions, and even psychosis, when used at very high doses.
- Paranoia or anxiety.
When used on a long-term basis, marijuana changes your brain’s development and alters structures in the brain associated with the reward system. Some medical studies have found that consistent, long-term abuse of this drug lowers intelligence and cognitive abilities, leads to a significant decline in general knowledge, and can lead to memory problems.
Mood problems can also arise. You may become more anxious or aggressive when you are not intoxicated.
Additionally, marijuana has been associated with eye problems, including:
- Conjunctival hyperemia (discharge from the eye).
- Less tear production.
- Light sensitivity.
- Ptosis, or drooping eyelid.
- Blepharospasm, or uncontrolled twitching eyelid.
- Nystagmus, or shaking eyes.
Medical Studies Show That Alternate Forms of Marijuana Can Cause Harm to the Eyes
Today, there are new methods of ingesting medical cannabis that could be less addictive. For example, lozenges, topical oils, and creams have all been developed to reduce the risk of getting high while benefiting from potential medical effects.
Unfortunately, these newer methods of medical marijuana use do not work to lower intraocular pressure. A study found that eye drops containing THC did not lower intraocular pressure at all. Another study found that smoking marijuana lowered intraocular pressure, and the amount of cannabis ingested would lower IOP in measurable ways, but ingesting more cannabis would not lead to effects that lasted longer. The body still metabolized THC’s peak effects in three to four hours.
Because the effects on IOP last only a few hours, medical marijuana does not help to maintain stable low eye pressure, which is necessary to reduce damage to the optic nerve.
Some studies suggest that marijuana can increase optic nerve damage. Cannabis use decreases blood flow throughout the body. If the optic nerve does not receive enough oxygen through the bloodstream, it will begin to die, which will lead to further vision loss.
A study on CBD oil in laboratory rats found that there was a paradoxical harmful effect. Since THC seems to be the chemical that lowers IOP, using medical marijuana with less THC can be worse for your eyes. The study reported an 18 percent increase in intraocular pressure in the rats who used CBD oil, which lasted for about four hours.
Eye Doctors Understand the Best Course of Glaucoma Treatment
Ultimately, the best treatment for glaucoma keeps eye pressure in a healthy range all day. Eye drops and some forms of surgery can help to maintain lower eye pressure for months or years. Eye drops must be applied consistently, but they will be used less often than medical marijuana would need to be used, and they have fewer impactful side effects.
Glaucoma. (July 2019). National Eye Institute (NEI).
What Is Marijuana? (September 2019). National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
CBD Oil May Worsen Glaucoma. (February 2019). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
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CBD and Glaucoma: Does It Help Reduce Eye Pressure?
However, when used in conjunction with other cannabinoids, CBD for glaucoma can work as an effective treatment.
There’s a lot of false information out there that suggests CBD alone is an effective way to treat the condition. This information can be dangerous to someone that actually suffers from the disorder.
In this article, we’ll be looking at the facts and helping you understand how certain cannabinoids can treat glaucoma.
What are the Effects of CBD on the Eyes?
On a normal healthy person, CBD has no known negative effects on the eyes however that isn’t the same for people with glaucoma as some studies suggest.
Using CBD alone in the form of an isolate can be detrimental if you have glaucoma. One study from Indiana University found evidence to suggest that CBD raises the pressure inside the eye . If this is true, CBD could worsen the primary underpinning of the disease.
The study was conducted on mice and found that CBD raised eye pressure by 18 percent. This lasted for up to four hours after the CBD was administered.
As you will know if you or someone close to you suffers from glaucoma, high eye pressure is a primary risk factor for people with the disease. High eye pressure can quicken the damage to the optic nerve at the back of the eye which could ultimately lead to blindness.
The best way to fight glaucoma is to lower eye pressure as much as possible. This will slow down any permanent damage that may be taking place. With this in mind, CBD alone isn’t recommended as a treatment for the disease.
If you were hoping to use CBD for glaucoma, do not fear, all hope is not lost. Other cannabinoids such as THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) have been found to lower eye pressure and have a positive effect on glaucoma.
When a true full-spectrum product is used to treat glaucoma CBD can actually benefit you. As we mentioned, CBD alone can be detrimental to the disease however when used in conjunction with THC it can have some positive effects.
Is THC Better for Glaucoma Than CBD?
THC as a singular cannabinoid certainly helps people with glaucoma more than CBD alone.
Numerous studies show that both delta 9-THC and delta 8-THC have a significant effect on optic nerve health. Evidence shows that THC not only reduces intraocular pressure but also helps to protect against neuron damage.
Research shows that both THC and CBD can protect against cell damage due to elevated levels of glutamate. CBD can indirectly help glaucoma as long as it is combined with other cannabinoids in a balanced true full-spectrum product.
Let’s take a look at how THC and CBD can positively impact eye health and be used to treat glaucoma.
THC Reduces Intraocular Pressure
Lowering eye pressure is an important factor in treating glaucoma. From as early as the 1970s, it has been common knowledge that THC lowers intraocular eye pressure. So, how does it work?
THC interacts with the receptors in the body’s endocannabinoid system. Studies show that THC reacts with receptors in the eye .
CB1 receptors have been found in the ciliary epithelium, the corneal epithelium, and the endothelium of the eye. It is believed that THC interacts with these receptors and as a result, intraocular pressure is lowered.
THC Decelerates Vision Loss
THC has been found to decelerate vision loss according to a study published in Experimental Eye Research .
The study tested the effects of THC on rats with retinitis pigmentosa — a genetic eye disease that leads to blindness. After a 90 day treatment, the rats that consumed the cannabinoid gained better scores on vision tests.
The THC rat group also acquired 40 percent more photoreceptors than the untreated control group. Those are some impressive results.
The potential that THC alone has to slow down blindness is staggering.
THC & CBD Support Optic Nerve Health
THC and CBD together have been found to support optic nerve health . People with glaucoma have an excess of glutamate — a major neurotransmitter in the eye.
In glaucoma sufferers, this neurotransmitter accumulates in the retinal region and damages cells, eventually leading to vision loss. This is called glutamate-induced neurotoxicity.
THC and CBD help protect against the condition, potentially preventing blindness and prolonging vision loss.
CBD Oil and Glaucoma
Most commercially available CBD oils will not help glaucoma, in fact, they could have an adverse effect. Even CBD oils labeled as full-spectrum aren’t going to cut it when it comes to this disease, as they simply contain too much CBD and not enough THC.
The best oil for glaucoma is a true full-spectrum THC-containing cannabis oil. Both delta 9-THC and delta 8-THC can be used to treat glaucoma with excellent results. Finding an oil that contains both cannabinoids is the best way to treat the disease.
Delta 9 and delta-8 THC are psychoactive so they will get you “high.” This is something to keep in mind if you are looking for cannabis to treat glaucoma because unfortunately, this side effect is unavoidable.
Research shows that delta 8-THC is slightly less psychoactive than delta 9 but you will still experience a “high.”
If you’re looking for a glaucoma treatment that helps but you are put off by the thought of being overly intoxicated, a delta 8-THC oil or tincture is worth trying.
If you can deal with the psychoactive effects of full-spectrum THC-containing cannabis oil, it will benefit the disease massively. Just remember not to operate any machinery or vehicles while medicated.
Is THC-Containing Cannabis Oil Legal?
Any cannabis oil that contains over 0.3% delta 9 THC is illegal under federal law, however, state law allows it depending on the state that you reside in.
Cannabis products, for the most part, are also banned across Europe and the UK, so make sure you know the law in your area.
Delta 8 THC is still technically legal under federal law, which means it is unbanned across the US. Regardless, make sure to check your state law if you are unsure of your local restrictions.
In most of Europe and the UK, any form of THC is banned by law, making delta 8 THC illegal as well.
Check the law in your country and region if you are planning on using THC for glaucoma. Cannabis is becoming more accepted as a medicine. Even in banned countries such as the UK, THC-containing products may be available on prescription from your doctor.
CBD vs. THC For Glaucoma
There are many benefits to using THC and CBD for glaucoma. Both cannabinoids have their place in treating the disease, but like any medication, there are some downsides.
If you have glaucoma and are considering using cannabis oil to treat it, you will have to weigh up the pros and cons. Doing this will help you understand whether this route is going to work for you.
- THC decelerates vision loss
- It reduces intraocular pressure
- Supports optic nerve health
- Analgesic qualities — can reduce pain
- Aids in the support of optic nerve health when used alongside other cannabinoids
- Vaso-relaxant — increases the level of ocular blood flow
- Anti-inflammatory — can reduce some side effects of glaucoma
- Analgesic qualities — can reduce pain
- Anti-nausea qualities — can help reduce the side effects of other glaucoma meds
- Is psychoactive — will get you “high” (can become an inconvenience)
- Only effective for three to four hours before another dose is needed
- High-quality oils and extracts are expensive
- Illegal in some states and across Europe
- When used alone it can raise intraocular pressure
- Must only be used alongside the psychoactive cannabinoid THC
How to Use CBD Oil for Glaucoma?
The best way to use CBD for glaucoma is in a true full-spectrum product that has a cannabinoid profile as close to the raw plant as possible. A delta 8 THC oil or tincture is another good option to consider.
You can use cannabis oil in a variety of ways to treat glaucoma. Full-spectrum oils are available in many forms. You will find pure oils, vape products, tinctures, capsules, gummies, and sprays.
You need to treat glaucoma 24 hours a day and unfortunately, the intraocular pressure-reducing qualities of THC don’t last long. You’ll need to medicate periodically throughout the day.
Studies from the National Eye Institute show that THC does lower IOP (intraocular eye pressure) by up to 30 percent. The downside is, IOP levels only stay this low for three to four hours.
If you’re going to use cannabis oil or another THC-containing product to treat glaucoma, you will need to medicate every three to four hours. This is great during the day but unless you plan on waking up every few hours at night, it is not so good.
Intraocular eye pressure levels increase during the night. This is mostly down to fluid distribution leading to choroidal vascular congestion when lying flat during sleep. This is a problem if you plan on using cannabis alone to treat glaucoma.
The answer is to use cannabis oil alongside other forms of glaucoma medication such as bimatoprost eye drops and/or acetazolamide pills.
Although you should continue using your prescription glaucoma meds, you may be able to reduce your intake and side effects by using cannabis oil alongside them.
How Much CBD Oil Should I Take for Glaucoma?
How much cannabis oil you take for glaucoma depends on a lot of factors.
Usually, one to two drops of cannabis oil under the tongue is sufficient for lowering intraocular eye pressure. Keep in mind, the strength of the oil you are using will ultimately affect the dosage.
If you are new to cannabis, start small with a 10 mg dose and increase once you know how you react to it. People react differently to THC so don’t be put off if you feel the need to increase or decrease your dose.
Speak to your local dispensary or get some advice on dosages for the specific oil you will be using.
No matter the strength or dosage you are taking it is important to remember to medicate every three to four hours to maintain low eye pressure.
Final Thoughts — Should You Use CBD for Glaucoma?
As you now know, CBD alone is not an effective treatment for glaucoma. The cannabinoid by itself can increase eye pressure which is a less than desirable effect if you have the disease.
If you have glaucoma, you should do your best to avoid CBD oils and stick to full-spectrum oils that are high in THC.
Glaucoma can’t be cured yet, but it can certainly be controlled. With the right treatment, the progression of vision loss can be slowed down dramatically and even stopped entirely.
People that suffer from glaucoma can lead perfectly normal lives with the right treatment. Cannabis can be a large part of that treatment and help you get back on the path to normality.
Cannabis oil or any other THC-containing products should not be used as a primary treatment for glaucoma. Any prescription medication should still be taken to reduce vision loss and prevent optic nerve damage.
Always check with your doctor before using cannabis alongside any existing medication.
References Used In This Article
- Miller, S., Daily, L., Leishman, E., Bradshaw, H., & Straiker, A. (2018). Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol differentially regulate intraocular pressure. Investigative ophthalmology & visual science, 59(15), 5904-5911.
- Straiker, A. J., Maguire, G., Mackie, K., & Lindsey, J. (1999). Localization of cannabinoid CB1 receptors in the human anterior eye and retina. Investigative ophthalmology & visual science, 40(10), 2442-2448.
- Lax, P., Esquiva, G., Altavilla, C., & Cuenca, N. (2014). Neuroprotective effects of the cannabinoid agonist HU210 on retinal degeneration. Experimental Eye Research, 120, 175-185.
- Hampson, A. J., Grimaldi, M., Axelrod, J., & Wink, D. (1998). Cannabidiol and (−) Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol are neuroprotective antioxidants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 95(14), 8268-8273.
Livvy is a registered nurse (RN) and board-certified nurse midwife (CNM) in the state of New Jersey. After giving birth to her newborn daughter, Livvy stepped down from her full-time position at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. This gave her the opportunity to spend more time writing articles on all topics related to pregnancy and prenatal care.
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CBD and Glaucoma — Are They a Safe Combination?
Often touted as a magical elixir, CBD is being marketed as a treatment for just about everything, including anxiety, insomnia, pain, and even cancer. According to AARP , baby boomers are fueling its popularity and using it as a treatment for pain, arthritis, and other age-related health problems. But is CBD and glaucoma a safe combination?
The truth is that CBD oil and other products are not a good form of glaucoma treatment. In fact, it may actually increase the pressure in your eye and make your condition worse. THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, may help. However, you need to use it a lot for the same effects as traditional treatment, which has its own risks. Your best choice is medicated eye drops and oral medications in the early stages, and surgery if your condition progresses.
CBD and Glaucoma — A Dangerous Combination
CBD ( cannabidiol ) is a major chemical component in marijuana that has become a popular remedy over the past few years. It can be found in oils, sprays, creams, and even dog treats. Part of its popularity is that it doesn’t get you high, although some CBD products do contain small amounts of its psychoactive cousin, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
CBD has many purported benefits such as helping with pain relief, stress, and even cancer-related symptoms. Unfortunately, they don’t extend to the intraocular pressure associated with glaucoma. In fact, a 2018 study from Indiana University found that it can actually increase pressure within the eye .
The study revealed that the use of CBD caused an 18 percent increase in pressure within the eye. These effects lasted for a minimum of four hours, showing that CBD can actually worsen glaucoma rather than effectively treat the eye condition. This is highly problematic since increased pressure inside the eye can eventually lead to irreversible vision loss.
On the other hand, THC provided the opposite and desired effect. Rather than increasing eye pressure, researchers found that it actually lowered it. Male mice experienced around a 30 percent reduction eight hours after being exposed to the chemical. Some male mice had a slightly lower drop to 22 percent lasting four hours.
Female mice didn’t benefit as much from THC. They only experienced a 17 percent decrease after four hours. There was no drop in eye pressure after eight hours. This has led researchers to suspect that females are less affected by THC, although it isn’t clear if this is also the case for its psychoactive effects. The study was originally published in the journal of Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science .
The Connection Between Mice & Humans
While performed on lab mice, the results of the study can have an important impact on CBD usage in humans. According to Dr. Alex Straiker, who led the study:
This study raises important questions about the relationship between the primary ingredients in cannabis and their effect on the eye. It also suggests the need to understand more about the potential undesirable side effects of CBD…
The American Academy of Ophthalmology currently doesn’t support the use of THC due to its medical and legal limitations as well as its risks . You would need to smoke eight to 10 times every 24 hours to effectively treat glaucoma. Its side effects wouldn’t make a good long-term treatment plan since they would interfere with everyday tasks and harm your lungs over time . increase your risk of lung cancer.
Click here to learn more about your risk of glaucoma-related vision loss!
Glaucoma Treatment in Knoxville, Tennessee
Baptist Eye Surgeons has been preserving eyesight for the Knoxville and East Tennessee area since 1987. Glaucoma works by damaging the optic nerve over time, resulting in gradual vision loss. This nerve damage is often the result of increased eye pressure, but it can be caused by other factors in certain instances.
Effective treatment for glaucoma starts with a comprehensive eye exam . These dilated exams can help diagnose glaucoma as well as other eye conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Treatment in the early stages involves eye drops and oral medications to help control your eye pressure. Surgery may become necessary if your condition progresses.
Another option is the Xen Gel Stent , a minimally invasive implant. Studies suggest that this surgical option may help reduce your eye pressure as well as your need for medicated eye drops.
Are you concerned about your glaucoma symptoms? Contact us today to schedule your appointment!
Baptist Eye Surgeons is an ophthalmological practice in Knoxville, TN, and Morristown, TN. Give us a call at 865-579-3920 for more information or to schedule an appointment .