According to research, glaucoma is one of the most common eye conditions on a global scale with statistics showing that approximately 60 million people experience the condition in their lives. The USA presents with a statistic of more than three million people living with glaucoma and if this is untreated it can result in irreversible blindness.
Since 1980, surgical procedures and treatments have significantly improved the statistics of glaucoma patients. The procedures have effectively treated the optical nerve damage caused by glaucoma and the risk of developing blindness was reduced by approximately 50%. Nonetheless, while advancing treatments have reduced the risk of blindness in glaucoma patients, the number of effective topical drugs continues to be restricted. As such, medical marijuana has been stated as an effective treatment with many people choosing this option – but should they be doing so?
Due to the improvement of glaucoma treatments over recent years, one must question whether or not the benefits of medical marijuana outweigh the potential risks or side effects? Furthermore, the role of the body’s endocannabinoid system in disease should be considered when determining if development of cannabinoid-based medications are beneficial for treating this condition.
- What Causes Glaucoma?
Medical studies have found that glaucoma has a strong connection to various neurodegenerative conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, and is therefore being considered as a neurodegenerative disease. The research indicates that one of four patients with Alzheimer’s disease will present with a diagnosis of glaucoma and, in fact, glaucoma appeared to be a predictor of Alzheimer’s. The precise cause of the eye condition, however, continues to be a mystery and elude the medical community.
Due to intraocular pressure influencing the onset and progression of glaucoma, ophthalmologists have begun to prescribe treatments that target this intraocular pressure, shortened to IOP. Evidence has shown that the only technique for preventing irreversible blindness or vision loss is the reduction of IOP levels using different treatments. The type of treatment chosen is typically dependent on the severity and the progression of the eye condition; however, ophthalmologists will more often than not treat glaucoma with prescription medication. A severe case would potentially require surgery.
- Is Cannabis A Viable Treatment For Glaucoma?
Studies from the 1970s indicate that cannabinoids present with properties that can reduce glaucoma-related symptoms due to their ability for lowering the IOP levels in the patient. Furthermore, the cannabinoids presented with neuroprotective actions. In 1971, the first study of cannabis as treatment for glaucoma found that consumption of this substance reduced the patient’s IOP levels by 25-30%.
Regardless of the medical findings in the research from the 1970s, it is rare that an ophthalmologist will utilize medical marijuana in patients experiencing early to mid-stage glaucoma. The primary issue many ophthalmologists have with the use of medical cannabis is the potential side effects and how smoking cannabis can outweigh the short term advantages of this treatment. For example, smoking cannabis can result in unstable intraocular pressure levels, thereby increasing the risk of irreversible blindness in the patient.
Another point of concern that many ophthalmologists have is that the therapeutic effects of medical marijuana are short-term for glaucoma patients; therefore, the individual would need to consume cannabis on a regular basis – potentially every three or four hours. Medical professionals have claimed that glaucoma requires treatment 24 hours per day and patients would need to consume medical cannabis approximately six to eight times in one day to be appropriately treated for their condition. A frequency at this level can be difficult to maintain and, due to the amount of consumption, can increase the risk of developing a cannabis addiction.
When the patient is experiencing a late stage glaucoma condition, it is often seen that ophthalmologists are more likely to opt for medical marijuana as a form of treatment. This is due to the fact that treatment at the late stage of glaucoma focuses more on alleviating the associated symptoms of the condition rather than targeting the condition itself. According to Andrew Bainnson, the medical community has been aware of the effectiveness of medical marijuana in treating pain and nausea; however, not glaucoma. Of course, there are patients at the end stage of nausea and pain that may benefit from this treatment but not from the perspective of glaucoma
- Are Cannabis-Based Treatments Beneficial As Future Glaucoma Treatments?
One of the most significant physiological systems in the human body is its internal cannabinoid system, also known as the endocannabinoid system. Nearly all aspects of the body’s health, including immune system response, inflammation, pain modulation and neuroprotection are dependent on the abilities of the endocannabinoid system. As such, many medical researchers feel that the development and use of cannabinoid-based treatments can be highly beneficial in treatment and potentially preventing conditions such as glaucoma.
The cannabinoid receptors in the body are prominent in ocular tissues responsible for the regulation of intraocular pressure. Future medical research is working towards the development of cannabinoid-based medications to target these problems. This type of medication will be highly beneficial in that it will treat two separate issues: lowering the intraocular pressure and protection of retinal cells.
Current research has found that two cannabinoid agonists (WIN 55212-2 and anandamid) and various other cannabinoids, such as CBG and CBD, can be useful when developing treatments for glaucoma. This is particularly true in the case of medications that are administered directly to the patient’s eye because they are well-tolerated by the human body. Buy Wholesale CBD Oil
Unfortunately, problems that are not unique to medical marijuana continue to exist. An oral preparation and use of cannabis is not beneficial because the bioavailability is poor with absorption being unpredictable. Furthermore, inhalation of cannabis is not effective as the effects are not long-lasting.