Can Cannabis Effectively Treat Glaucoma or Other Eye Conditions?

Wondering if cannabis can be an effective treatment for glaucoma? Leading optometrist associations including the Canadian Ophthalmological Society say no, and that anyone who says yes is just blowing smoke. 


With cannabis now being legal in Canada for more than two years, the discussion around it and its medical benefits are growing. One condition that is commonly talked about in connection with cannabis is that of glaucoma, a group of eye diseases that can cause damage to the optic nerve due to abnormally high intraocular pressure (IOP), resulting in vision loss and blindness.

While cannabis has been shown to lower eye pressure in studies, there is a litany of reasons why the drug isn't considered to be an effective or recommended treatment for glaucoma or any other eye condition. Let's take a look at them.
 

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Why Cannabis Is Not an Effective Treatment for Glaucoma

The biggest reason why cannabis is not an effective treatment for glaucoma or any other eye condition has to do with the duration of its effects. While it has been proven to lower eye pressure, cannabis only does so for about three to four hours. Glaucoma, on the other hand, requires eye pressure to be managed 24 hours a day. So if someone were to use cannabis to lower their eye pressure, they would have to be consuming cannabis about six to eight times every day. 

The second main reason why cannabis is not recommended by the Canadian Ophthalmological Society and other leading associations has to do with its neuropsychological and behavioural effects. The impairment that is caused by cannabis consumption makes the user unable to drive a car, operate heavy machinery, or function at their maximum mental capacity. 

When smoked, cannabis can also cause serious damage to the lungs in the form of hundreds of dangerous compounds. The drowsiness and other systemic side effects caused by cannabis would also make going about your daily activities either difficult or impossible.

It would also be an extremely cost-prohibitive treatment since it would require the patient to use it every three to four hours every day. One other reason for not recommending cannabis as a treatment for glaucoma centres around its effect of lowering blood pressure throughout the body. This could reduce the blood flow to the optic nerve, which would nullify the benefit of lowered eye pressure.

Glaucoma: Types, Treatments, Symptoms
 

What Are the Recommended Treatments for Glaucoma?

There are several effective treatments for those suffering from glaucoma that have a longer duration than cannabis and which do not bring the undesirable side effects and high cost that daily cannabis consumption does. 

One of the most common forms of treatment would be prescription eye drops. These eye drops help manage glaucoma by decreasing the intraocular pressure in the eye by either helping the fluid drain better or by lowering how much fluid is made by the eye.

Other effective glaucoma treatment methods include laser treatment and surgery. Like the prescription eye drops above, both approaches aim to lower intraocular pressure, so damage to the optic nerve is either mitigated or avoided.

Are you concerned about glaucoma? Book a comprehensive eye exam at Specs in the City, which includes glaucoma screening and vision field testing. Let's keep an eye on your eyes and make sure everything is ok.

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Will Cannabis One Day Be Used to Treat Glaucoma?

Researchers are currently looking into whether the active ingredients in cannabis may one day provide an effective treatment for glaucoma. The hope is that the compounds in cannabis that lower eye pressure can be isolated and engineered to be long-lasting, while eliminating all other side effects. Much more research is required before a development of that nature will be achieved. 

In the meantime, cannabis in its current forms cannot be recommended as a treatment for glaucoma or any other eye condition due to its short duration of action and accompanying neuropsychological and behavioural side effects.
 

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If you would like more information about our glaucoma screening and vision field testing in SE Calgary, contact Specs in the City today. Simply give us a call at 403-252-2020 or fill out our online contact form to get in touch with us. We have also instituted extensive COVID-19 safety protocols and precautions at our clinic, so we can keep our customers and staff safe during these still uncertain times.

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