CBD for Glaucoma: Let’s Take a Look
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, second only to cataracts. It is termed “the silent thief of sight,” as often there are no symptoms of the condition until it is too late. But is CBD for Glaucoma the answer we’ve been searching for?
After several research studies on how it might be used to cure the ailment, the federal government approved the use of medical marijuana for glaucoma. These studies showed that marijuana decreased intraocular pressure as well as conventional drugs for three to four hours. The only downside for some people is the psychoactive effects of marijuana due to its tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content.
CBD, one of the other cannabinoids of marijuana and typically extracted from its sister industrial hemp plant to make CBD products, is being studied for its use in several health conditions including pain, anxiety, and seizures.
The question is, can CBD (without any THC), be used to actually treat glaucoma?
Table of Contents
- CBD for Glaucoma: Just the Facts
- Understanding Glaucoma
- What Causes Glaucoma?
- Symptoms of Glaucoma
- Eye Drops
- Oral Medications
CBD for Glaucoma: Just the Facts
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness and often has no symptoms until it’s too late. Conventional treatments are effective in reducing intraocular pressure, the cause of blindness in glaucoma, but may cause side effects for individuals. Medical marijuana has been approved for glaucoma; however, some find the side effects intolerable and are curious about CBD. Currently, research does not support CBD for glaucoma, but that doesn’t mean more research isn’t warranted.
Glaucoma is a condition that affects the eyes. It is when the pressure inside the eye–known as intraocular pressure–increases. This increased pressure causes damage to the optic nerve, which is the main nerve of the eye that is responsible for vision.
The outcome of having glaucoma is severe. If the pressure continues to increase, it can lead to irreversible changes in vision and permanent blindness.
The reason pressure builds up in the eye is from improper drainage of the fluid in your eye, called aqueous humor.
There are two categories of glaucoma: Open-Angle, which is the most common, and Closed-Angle, which is less common.
In open-angle glaucoma, the area where the fluid is supposed to drain appears normal, but for some reason, it does not drain well.
In closed-angle glaucoma, drainage of aqueous humor suddenly becomes impaired, causing a sudden increase in eye pressure. This is a medical emergency.
What Causes Glaucoma?
We do not fully understand the cause of why some people develop glaucoma. However, it seems to run in families and is more common in people with diabetes. WebMD recommends regular eye exams every 1-2 years for people over 40 who have a family history of glaucoma, or people with diabetes. Other risk factors of glaucoma include:
- Eye trauma
- African American, Irish, Russian, Japanese, Hispanic, Inuit, or Scandinavian descent
- Steroid medications
Symptoms of Glaucoma
One of the main issues with detecting open-angle glaucoma is that for most people, there are no tell-tale symptoms. It is extremely common to have a slow increase in intraocular pressure without noticing pain or any other warning signs. An eye doctor is trained in how to measure the pressure in your eye, which is why regular check-ups are essential.
One of the first signs people notice is loss of peripheral vision (vision from the sides of your eyes). At this point, the person is usually late into their glaucoma.
In closed-angle glaucoma, which is rare, people may experience pain in the eye, blurriness with a severe headache, causing nausea and vomiting. If this occurs, a person should immediately seek medical attention.
Conventional Approach to Glaucoma
Unfortunately, it is not possible to reverse the damage caused by glaucoma. Therefore, continual monitoring of intraocular pressure is critical. Also managing intraocular pressure is possible with certain medications.
The most common medications for glaucoma are different forms of eye drops which decrease pressure in the eye through various mechanisms. These include:
- Prostaglandin drops
- Alpha-adrenergic agonists
- Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors
Since these medications are put directly into the eyes, only a small amount reaches the bloodstream. However, some people still suffer side effects like:
- Issues breathing
- Slowed or irregular heart rate
- Low or high blood pressure
- Irritated eyes
- Dry mouth
In hard to treat cases, a person may also need oral medication. The most common is a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor. This type of medication decreases the production of aqueous humor in the eye. Unfortunately, this drug comes with a host of side effects including frequent urination, tingling in the fingers and toes, depressed mood, digestive issues, and potential kidney stones.
Given the side effect profile of some of these drugs, people with glaucoma are looking for alternative options. Since medical marijuana has been approved by the federal government for use in glaucoma, some people choose to use it as an alternative to typical drug dosages.
However, some people do not want the psychoactive side effects of marijuana, so what about using CBD for glaucoma?
CBD for Glaucoma
Marijuana contains both THC and CBD. Some strains are high in THC, while others are higher in CBD. Regardless, when it comes to marijuana, THC is always present. On the other hand, CBD products must contain less than 0.3% THC to be sold legally in the United States.
Research supports that while THC, as found in marijuana, decreases intraocular pressure, CBD by itself seems to have the opposite effect.
Researchers have yet to fully understand the mechanisms of how cannabinoids such as THC decrease intraocular pressure. However, clinical studies show time and time again that using marijuana correctly and effectively reduces intraocular pressure.
Some theories of how cannabinoids decrease intraocular pressure include it increasing the drainage of aqueous humor, as well as stimulating the CB1 receptors of the endocannabinoid system. CBD is known to stimulate CB1 receptors, so it is puzzling as to why CBD does not seem to lower intraocular pressure. All that to say, this area of research requires further investigation.
What the Research Says on CBD for Glaucoma
We do not have a lot of research on CBD for glaucoma, as marijuana has really stolen the show. Unfortunately, the research we do have is not favorable.
A recent study found that CBD caused an increase in intraocular pressure and even prevented THC from decreasing intraocular pressure. This suggests that THC, and not CBD, is responsible for the lowering of intraocular pressure, therefore indicating that high THC strains of cannabis are ideal for treating glaucoma.
A small clinical trial looking at THC and CBD for glaucoma found that THC significantly lowered intraocular pressure and CBD either had no effect or increased intraocular pressure at increased doses.
In short, research does not appear to be in support of using CBD for glaucoma.
CBD seems to have many benefits in health conditions; unfortunately, glaucoma does not seem to be one of those conditions. Research has found that while medical marijuana (which has CBD as well as THC) decreases intraocular pressure, CBD alone has the opposite effect.
What Dr. Tishler, an ophthalmologist has to say about CBD for glaucoma is, “It is not an effective treatment for any ophthalmologic issues.”
People who have glaucoma should exercise caution if they are using CBD to treat what ails them. Be sure to do the research on all the risks early in regards to CBD and glaucoma. Nobody wants to add more problems to their eyes than what they already have.
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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Best cbd oil for glauccoma
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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