CBD for Glaucoma
Glaucoma is a condition which causes damage to the optic nerves in the eye. This illness happens when there is a fluid building up in the front area of the eye. This fluid increases the pressure and gradually does harm to the optic nerves.
These days, Glaucoma tends to be inherited from generation to generation. It often shows up in people who are 60 years old and above. If the damage continues for a long time, it can result in permanent blindness or partial vision loss. Most patients who are suffering from glaucoma have no early pain or symptoms. It’s important to see an eye doctor frequently so he or she would diagnose before a long-term vision loss occurs.
Signs & Symptoms of Glaucoma
Some common symptoms and signs include a gradual loss of peripheral vision in both eyes, tunnel vision, severe eye pain, blurred vision, vomiting or nausea, red eyes, and unexpected vision issues, especially when lighting is limited.
Risk Factors For Glaucoma
There are some risk factors for developing Glaucoma including:
- Old age
- Ethnic background (Hispanics, East Asians, and African Americans have higher risks of developing glaucoma than Caucasians)
- Eye conditions
- Eye surgery
Why does CBD Work for Treating Glaucoma?
Studies 1 have shown that CBD products contain different useful medicinal components such as vaso-relaxant, which can help to increase the level of ocular blood flows. In addition, the anti-inflammatory properties are shown to provide therapeutic alleviation for common symptoms of glaucoma. This is the reason why more and more people are looking to treat themselves with CBD products.
In addition, many patients often suffer from unexpected uncomfortable symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, and severe pain. Therefore, they turn to CBD treatment mainly because these products contain analgesic and anti-nausea properties. Of course, the consumption will depend on their particular stage.
What Are The Benefits of Using CBD to Treat Glaucoma?
Many studies have shown that CBD can help to relieve the intraocular pressure in the eye, thus alleviating symptoms and reducing the damages.
In general, glaucoma does harm your eyes due to the excessive release of a damaging chemical known as glutamate. This compound leads to the death of neurons in the retinal after the formation of peroxynitrite. Some scientific research has presented that CBD products can prevent the formation of damaging peroxynitrite 2 . As a result, it will provide the ultimate protection for the neuron nerves from glutamate-induce cell death.
In addition to minimizing cell death, CBD has also proved to be helpful in dealing with some risk factors.
The Endocannabinoid System & Glaucoma
All of us have an endocannabinoid system, which plays an essential part in inflammation and neuroprotection. Specifically, the CB1 cannabinoid receptors in the ocular tissues of our eye that are responsible for controlling intraocular pressure. Therefore, many scientists believe that the use of cannabinoid-based products such as CBD would have a positive effect on the endocannabinoid system and these cannabinoid receptors. In fact, the medications could potentially reduce the IOP and protect your retinal cells.
How Can I Use CBD to Treat Glaucoma?
If used properly, CBD can be a great option for many people. However, it’s important to remember that every person is unique and everyone’s reaction to CBD is different. The recommended dosage from each product can differ greatly, creating some confusion. Dosage may be different depending on the percentage of CBD oil you are using. On average, 25mg of CBD a day is effective for most people. For strong symptoms, the dosage can be increased slowly over a week until the symptoms feel better. This, of course, is different for every patient and should be monitored. For more details about dosage, see our post on CBD dosage.
What Are Studies Saying About Using CBD to Treat Glaucoma?
A lot of clinical and experimental studies have been implemented all over the world to find the linkage between CBD and Glaucoma. Many of these have discovered that CBD and cannabis products can be used as a natural approach to treat Glaucoma.
For instance, a study by a group of professors from the University of Aberdeen, UK had demonstrated how cannabinoid compounds such as CBD can relieve the common symptoms of Glaucoma 3 . This occurred as the cannabinoids successfully reduced the IOP and offered neuroprotective properties.
In 1972, another study was implemented, which found that taking cannabis would reduce IOP by 30 to 35 percent 4 . Both of these studies point out that every patient can potentially treat their Glaucoma conditions through the consumption of CBD products.
Since the early 1980s, a couple of studies have been conducted in the US and Europe on the use of CBD on glaucoma treatments 5 . Many of them have proved that different cannabinoid compounds such as CBG, CBD, as well as endogenous cannabinoids can effectively lower IOP when topically administered. More importantly, many histological studies present the direct part of ocular CB1 receptors in the reduction of IOP produced by cannabinoids.
However, a new study 6 doubts the benefits of CBD to treat glaucoma. It seems that CBD could even aggravate the symptoms of the disease.
These days, many ophthalmologists recommend their patients using CBD products rather than cannabis itself, particularly for those who are experiencing the mid-late stage of Glaucoma. Both CBD and Cannabis are able to provide therapeutic effects, but they are only short-term.
Best CBD Oil for Glaucoma – March 2022
Glaucoma is an eye condition that damages optical nerves and could eventually result in blindness. However, no treatment has been discovered to cure patients of the condition completely.
Treatments like eye drops, oral medications, and surgeries can only delay the progression of glaucoma. Hence, some people have resorted to alternative medications; for instance, cannabis products like cannabidiol (CBD).
While CBD may help alleviate the symptoms of various ailments ranging from psychiatric conditions to heart diseases, the research on CBD and glaucoma, thus far, has conflicting reports.
There have been studies on the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids on glaucoma. Cannabinoids are substances that help regulate functions like mood, appetite, memory, pain reception, and immune system activities. They bind with receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to fulfill these functions.
These cannabinoids can come from the body, be produced in laboratories, or derived from the Cannabis Sativa plant.
CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are the most notable phytocannabinoids that come from marijuana plants.
Some studies outline the therapeutic benefits of cannabinoids like CBD on glaucoma.
A study published in the journal The British Journal of Ophthalmology states that cannabinoids may help in the treatment of glaucoma (4 ) . These cannabinoids seem to reduce intraocular pressure (IOP) and have neuroprotective effects.
Another study in 2016 reveals that manipulating the ECS may have therapeutic effects on eye health unrelated to glaucoma. The study says these manipulations might give retinal protection and help restore normal vision (5 ) .
A study has also found that cannabinoids can reduce inflammation of the cornea and attenuate the cornea’s increased sensitivity to pain (6 ) .
Full-Spectrum CBD Oil for Glaucoma
Patients who want to use CBD oil to treat their ailments have three types of CBD oils to choose from: full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and CBD isolate.
Full-spectrum CBD oil uses all the components of a cannabis plant, namely trace amounts of THC, terpenes, fatty acids, flavonoids, and essential oils. This type of CBD oil is believed to be the most effective because it produces an entourage effect.
The entourage effect occurs because all the cannabis plant’s active ingredients synergize to produce maximum therapeutic benefits.
Researchers have found that THC is the active ingredient in Cannabis Sativa that helps relieve glaucoma symptoms. Because full-spectrum CBD only contains trace amounts of THC, it is not recommended for glaucoma treatment.
Glaucoma treatment involves lowering the eye pressure or the IOP. Studies show that CBD may worsen intraocular pressure.
A 2018 study published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science featured researchers from Indiana University who administered two of the primary components of medical cannabis to mice (7 ) . These were the psychoactive THC and CBD.
Alex Straiker and his co-authors have found that a single topical application of THC significantly lowered the test subjects’ IOP for eight hours. Meanwhile, the use of CBD with THC interferes with THC from lowering ocular pressure.
Another study done in 2006 and published in the Journal of Glaucoma found that upon administration of THC sublingually (under the tongue) to glaucoma patients, lower IOP was observed (8 ) . Meanwhile, 20 mg of CBD did not lower eye pressure in the test subjects.
When 40 mg of CBD was administered to these patients, however, IOP increased significantly.
From the studies cited above, it can be concluded that full-spectrum CBD oil’s trace amounts of THC cannot help in the treatment of glaucoma.
Similarly, broad-spectrum CBD oil and CBD isolates are ineffective glaucoma treatments because these CBD oil types do not contain THC.
Broad-spectrum CBD oil contains all the ingredients of full-spectrum oils except for THC. CBD isolates, meanwhile, are made from pure CBD because they only contain isolated cannabidiol.
Despite these studies, ophthalmologists still do not recommend the use of THC. This ingredient causes psychoactive effects and may produce a high in its users. Drug tests can also detect THC levels in the body. It is also highly addictive.
Data from the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) state that glaucoma treatment involves controlling eye pressure 24 hours a day (9 ) .
AAO also says that reducing IOP requires 3 to 5 mm Hg. To maintain that reduction, a patient should ingest approximately 18 to 20 mg of THC six to eight times a day — a substantial amount of the psychoactive substance to consume.
The organization of ophthalmologists cautions against THC’s effects on mental clarity, mood, and the ability to engage in everyday activities. AAO also emphasized that marijuana use every three to four hours is not cost-effective.
What is Glaucoma?
AAO describes glaucoma as an eye disease that targets the eye’s optic nerve. It is characterized by a buildup of fluid in the front part of the eye, increasing eye pressure that can severely damage the optic nerve (10 ) .
Glaucoma has many types, but the most common include primary open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma.
Open-angle glaucoma occurs more commonly. Initially, it is not painful and does not affect vision.
The effects of this type of glaucoma are gradual, mainly characterized by the inability of the eyes to drain fluid properly. As the eye pressure increases, nerve damage also begins.
In some people, the risks of getting glaucoma are high. Their optic nerves are more sensitive to normal eye pressure.
So that the early signs of glaucoma are detected, it is encouraged that patients regularly consult with an eye doctor.
The other type of glaucoma, angle-closure, can lead to vision loss immediately when left untreated. This type of glaucoma is characterized by the iris being too close to an eye’s drainage angle.
In angle-closure glaucoma, the iris can block the drainage angle completely. Eye pressure also rises and may result in an acute angle-closure glaucoma attack.
- Severe headache
- Eye pain and vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Halos around lights (rainbow-colored rings)
- Eye redness
Similar to open-angle glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma is difficult to detect early on. Usually, patients discover it only when they already have an attack.
Later symptoms of glaucoma include loss of peripheral vision (side vision) and blindness.
While the types of glaucomas mentioned earlier have unknown causes, secondary glaucoma, meanwhile, has identifiable causes (12 ) .
Some secondary glaucoma causes include injury to the eye, incomplete development of the eye’s drainage canals before birth, among others.
How CBD Oil Works to Alleviate Symptoms of Glaucoma
CBD may still help in treating the symptoms of this eye condition despite its side effects on patients with glaucoma.
CBD for Migraines
A study in 2018 outlines the potential therapeutic effects of CBD in treating migraines because of its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties (13 ) .
CBD for Nausea
Reports published in the British Journal of Pharmacology have shown that CBD’s antiemetic properties can help alleviate symptoms of nausea and vomiting (14 ) .
Clinical trials have revealed that the use of cannabis-related products like CBD may worsen glaucoma. While THC use temporarily relieves some glaucoma symptoms, ophthalmologists highly advise against the use of medical marijuana in treating the condition.
THC’s addictive properties could pose more risks than therapeutic benefits. Its effect in the body is also temporary and unsustainable in treating eye conditions like glaucoma.
Despite these, CBD still has promise for treating some symptoms that stem from glaucoma, such as nausea and migraines.
Using Marijuana to Treat Glaucoma
Now with recreational marijuana legalized in Michigan, it’s easier for glaucoma patients to substitute traditional treatment methods for a joint. But does it hurt more than it helps? A University of Michigan expert weighs in.
Marijuana increased in popularity in the mid-1970s when there was interest in cannabinoids for reduction in intraocular pressure (IOP), which is the fluid pressure inside the eye. Now, its usage has increased due to its pleasure-inducing side effects, and behind tobacco, alcohol and caffeine, it is the most widely used drug in society, according to Michigan Medicine ophthalmologist, Theresa M. Cooney, M.D.
Michigan voters took to the polls in November 2008 and voted in favor of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMA), which protects people with specific medical conditions from penalties under state law who use marijuana for medical purposes. More recently, recreational marijuana has also been legalized in Michigan.
As of 2019, 23 states, including Michigan, have legalized medical marijuana and some people are substituting their glaucoma medication with the drug. But does marijuana help? Cooney says the answer is complicated.
Glaucoma, the second leading cause of blindness in the United States (first for African Americans in the United States), causes optic neuropathy, a progressive loss of visual field and can lead to permanent, irreversible vision loss if not diagnosed and treated appropriately.
A debilitating condition
The MMA allows the usage of prescribed marijuana for “treating or alleviating pain, nausea, and other symptoms associated with a variety of debilitating medical conditions”, which is defined as producing one or more of the following:
Not all cases of glaucoma produce symptoms that classify it as a “debilitating medical condition” like closed-angle glaucoma, according to Cooney. The three types of glaucoma are:
Open-angle (chronic) glaucoma
Closed-angle (acute) glaucoma
Open-angle glaucoma is a chronic medical condition that is generally painless and although vision threatening, it is a slow or non-progressive disease for which medical and surgical treatments are available. Glaucoma eye drops, registered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), have long-term, proven efficacy if taken as prescribed.
Closed-angle glaucoma is an acute medical condition with sudden onset, that typically lasts only hours to a few days. It can cause pain and/or nausea because of elevated intraocular pressures. However, once effective pharmaceutical treatment is in place, there are no longer symptoms that would be consistent with a debilitating medical condition, as defined by the MMA.
Secondary glaucoma occurs when an identifiable source causes increased eye pressure that results in optic nerve damage and vision loss. This can be closed-angle or open-angle glaucoma.
Marijuana vs. traditional treatment
There are several classes of drugs proven to be effective as medical treatments for glaucoma. Recent glaucoma drops have also shown effectiveness for up to eight hours.
Aside from medications, there exist various surgery options for patients, such as the Xen gel stent , when a tiny tube is implanted in the eye to preserve vision, and the trabeculectomy, when a piece of tissue is removed from eye to create an opening to drain fluid.
Combining medication and marijuana is not recommended, says Cooney, because “we don’t know how marijuana interacts with traditional treatment methods since there aren’t studies investigating that yet.”
She adds that side effects of these traditional medical therapies are generally known to be considerably more mild than those associated with high-dose marijuana usage.
The effects of marijuana are also variable, since not all marijuana is created equal and it is not FDA approved, which is a serious health concern.
“Marijuana can be laced with anything,” says Cooney. “There are variable potencies of preparation and more than 400 different chemicals involved.”
Marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, meaning that there is a high potential for abuse and there is a lack of accepted safety for its use under medical supervision. It is discouraged from being used in place of any traditional, and studied, treatment options.
The good and the bad
According to Cooney, marijuana can create a 25 percent IOP reduction in 60 to 65 percent of people with or without glaucoma. What exactly causes this within the drug is unknown.
The problem is that IOP reduction lasts from 3 to 3.5 hours. To treat glaucoma effectively, IOP must be controlled around the clock, which likely leads to compliance issues.
“You’d need to smoke eight to 10 marijuana cigarettes a day for them to have the same effectiveness as regular, glaucoma drops,” says Cooney. “That’s 2,920 to 3,650 a year.”
Aside from the high, marijuana can substantially reduce blood pressure, which is a systemic problem. Reducing blood flow to the optic nerve means increasing susceptibility to optic nerve damage, which worsens glaucoma.
Decreased blood pressure is present within an hour, but in some who experience postural hypotension with hypertension, it can be as quick as 10 to 15 minutes.
Another systemic problem: smoking marijuana cigarettes can cause cardiac palpitations within two to three minutes, which will only return to normal after 90 to 120 minutes.
More apparent than physical alterations are the psychotropic effects that can cause euphoria, dysphoria and disruption of short term memory. These effects prevent individuals from safely driving, operating heavy machinery or functioning at maximum mental capacity.
Because marijuana is not filtered, neither are the cigarettes. Long-term usage can cause emphysema-like respiratory changes because of their release of tar, carcinogens and other volatile materials.
“There’s a higher concentration of these carcinogens in marijuana than tobacco, which increases your cancer risk” says Cooney.