More than two-thirds of U.S. states now maintain active medical marijuana programs, and many patients are obtaining MMJ cards to help manage various qualifying medical conditions. One such condition—glaucoma—currently appears on 24 states’ lists of qualifying conditions.
According to the non-profit organization Glaucoma Research Foundation, more than 3 million people in the U.S. have glaucoma, but many go misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. Glaucoma is the world’s second-leading cause of blindness according to the World Health Organization.
Common symptoms of glaucoma include nausea, headaches, and blurred vision. Glaucoma affects the young and old alike, and although its symptoms can be treated, the disease has no known cure. However, the treatment of glaucoma with solutions such as medical marijuana can help patients preserve their ocular health, lower IOP, and circumvent vision loss.
Read on to learn about how medical marijuana is being used by some to help treat their glaucoma symptoms, and whether or not it is an effective treatment for this eye condition.
Can Medical Marijuana Help With Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a condition marked by an increase in the eye’s intraocular pressure (IOP), which causes optic nerve damage. There are different types of glaucoma, with primary open-angle glaucoma being the most common one. Those suffering from glaucoma, if left untreated, could ultimately experience permanent retinal disruption or complete loss of vision.
Over the past several decades, marijuana has been studied extensively as a potential treatment for the symptoms of glaucoma, especially when used in addition to prescribed medication. Medical marijuana has been shown to decrease glaucoma patients’ elevated IOP by reducing the production of aqueous humor, or the fluid that fills the front part of the eye and keeps it moist.
Medical cannabis products such as marijuana cigarettes can also reduce patients’ blood pressure and alleviate ocular hypertension by decreasing blood flow to the optic nerve. Medical cannabis even offers neuroprotective effects.
Yet while these studies suggest that marijuana provides an IOP-lowering effect, it is important to keep in mind that glaucoma is a chronic condition and marijuana would need to be used on a regular basis to produce real benefits. Additionally, marijuana can involve some side effects and risk factors such as dry mouth, red eyes, and dizziness.
Some people who have used marijuana for glaucoma therapy have reported relief from their symptoms, while others have not. If you are considering using marijuana to treat your glaucoma, talk to your healthcare provider first.
Treating Glaucoma with Medical Marijuana
Marijuana has been shown to be an effective treatment for glaucoma thanks to its ability to decrease eye pressure by as much as 25%, according to some studies. Different strains of marijuana contain different amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), which is why it’s important to do your research.
Some people report that smoking marijuana makes their symptoms worse. Others find that they need to smoke marijuana every day in order to keep their symptoms under control. The best way to find out what works for you is to experiment with low doses and follow your eye care provider’s instructions.
How to Get a Medical Marijuana Card for Glaucoma in Virginia
If you are a Virginia resident and suffer from glaucoma, you might be eligible for a medical marijuana card. You must meet a few requirements before you start the application process, though.
To obtain a medical marijuana card in Virginia, you must be at least 18 years old and reside within the state. You must also have at least one qualifying medical condition that can be treated with cannabis. If you don’t see your condition on the state’s official list, you can still become eligible by demonstrating that your particular ailment could be treated with cannabis.
Next, you will need to schedule an appointment with a doctor who can certify that you have a condition that necessitates a card. A list of licensed doctors in Virginia can be found on the Virginia Department of Health’s website.
After your certification, you will need to apply for a card through the DOH’s website and pay a $50 application fee.
Once you receive your card, you will be permitted to purchase cannabis products from licensed dispensaries in Virginia. A list of dispensaries can be found on the DOH’s website.
The Best Medical Marijuana Oil for Glaucoma
Having an open and honest discussion with your doctor is the best way to determine the right type of marijuana or CBD oil to use for your glaucoma symptoms. Your physician can also monitor your condition to make sure that the marijuana is bringing about IOP reduction.
Some treatment programs instruct patients to find an oil that contains both Delta 9 THC and Delta 8 THC cannabinoids so they can achieve optimal results. The best oil for glaucoma is also said to be one that contains a strain of true full-spectrum THC cannabis.
What are the Best Strains for Glaucoma?
According to Cannabis Pharmacy, a cannabis strain high in CBD is recommended for glaucoma patients because it produces the best effects on the optic nerve. Cannatonic or other high-CBD strains are also widely recommended.
It’s likely that a consistent and lasting reduction in IOP will not occur if you use a high-THC strain alone. Using a high-THC strain as an adjunct therapy with existing prescribed medication could provide short-term benefits, though.
Medical Marijuana and Glaucoma Studies
There are a few studies that have examined the use of marijuana for glaucoma. One study from 1972 found that smoking marijuana reduced a patient’s IOP by about 25 percent. Another study from 1975 found that using an oral preparation of THC reduced IOP by about 35 percent.
More recently, a 2010 study found that using a topical cannabis-based medication reduced IOP by 45 percent.
Despite all of this research and these studies related to the use of medical marijuana to treat glaucoma, there remains much to be discovered about the effects of marijuana on this particular disease. As always, it’s best to consult your physician or ophthalmologist before experimenting with any new treatment options, especially glaucoma medications.
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Dr. Nicholas Marsh has been a respected board-certified anesthesiologist in Northern Virginia for over 35 years. Recognized as a top doctor by FindaTopDoc.com, his vision for providing top-quality medical services is driven by his passion for patient comfort and dignity.