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Can Medical Cannabis Help Save Your Eyes? 7 Facts About Glaucoma

While it’s often misunderstood as a disease of the elderly, glaucoma occurs in people of many different age groups and it’s the second most common cause of blindness.

If you’re of a certain age, you may remember “Cannabis for Glaucoma!” as part of the punchline of many late night show jokes, including Conan O’Brien and Jay Leno monologues. But the truth is that cannabis may address some of the conditions that cause glaucoma.

As such, Maryland, Minnesota, and New Mexico all include glaucoma as a qualifying condition for obtaining a medical cannabis card. If you’re interested in trying medical cannabis to help manage this serious ocular disease, here are 7 facts to know about glaucoma.

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Cannabis and Glaucoma: Awareness of an Irreversible Eye Condition

Glaucoma is caused by an increase in pressure inside the eye. This pressure compresses and damages the optic nerve, leading to irreparable vision loss. This damage—because it often occurs before there’s noticeable vision loss—takes place invisibly. This is perhaps the most important reason you should be aware of glaucoma symptoms and options for treatment early in the game.

How does cannabis help glaucoma? While cannabis can’t “cure” glaucoma, it’s one of several potential treatments that can slow its progress. We’ll discuss them a little later in this article.

Glaucoma, a Common and Widespread Disease

Glaucoma is often associated with old age, but that’s not quite accurate. While it’s true that its risk increases over time, at any given moment roughly 3 million Americans over the age of 40 live with glaucoma, and that number is expected to rise as the United States population ages. Worldwide, glaucoma affects roughly 80 million people.

Certain Populations are at Higher Risk of Glaucoma

Glaucoma doesn’t occur entirely at random. In the United States, certain populations—including some people of African-American, Hispanic, and certain Asian heritages—are at greater risk of developing the disorder. What’s more, the odds rise significantly if a parent or sibling has glaucoma.

Specific Risk Factors for Glaucoma

In addition to the risk factors associated with ethnicity, there are other potential indicators of increased risk. These include high blood pressure, diabetes, and the long-term use of corticosteroid eye drops.

Early Glaucoma Detection is Crucial

As we mentioned earlier, the symptoms of glaucoma—which include blurry vision, or the loss of side and/or peripheral vision—don’t tend to appear until after permanent damage has already taken place. That’s why it’s so critical that you know the risk factors for glaucoma and be sure to get regular ophthalmological exams, including an ocular pressure test.

Yoga Poses to Avoid if You Have Glaucoma

Yoga is one of our favorite ways to reduce stress, increase flexibility, and boost our overall wellness. But certain inverted poses may not be the best option for those with glaucoma. Headstands forward bend, and downward dog can all increase intraocular pressure and should be avoided if you have glaucoma. Yoga may still have something to offer. One suggested area of research for glaucoma hypothesizes that certain yoga-based ocular exercises may even benefit eye pressure.

How Does Cannabis Help Glaucoma? One of Several Potential Treatments

While there’s no cure for glaucoma, several treatments may slow the progression of the disease. The range of conventional treatments includes eye drops that reduce the amount of ocular fluid the eye produces to more involved surgical interventions.

Is marijuana good for glaucoma? Believe it or not, doctors have been trying to settle that question for decades. Starting in the ’70s, research on cannabis and glaucoma suggested that THC, the primary cannabinoid in the cannabis plant, was effective at lowering ocular pressure.

For glaucoma treatment to be truly effective, intraocular pressure needs to be reduced on a constant basis. While some of us might enjoy a regular intake of cannabis, this isn’t really practical for most people.

That said, some researchers believe that—because the eye contains a high proportion of cannabinoid receptors—targeted cannabinoid-based treatments could succeed where simple THC-based treatments fall short. In fact, a study suggests that several cannabinoid-based compounds may show us the way toward all-natural, sustainable glaucoma treatments.

Cannabis and Glaucoma: Wrapping Up

We’re hopeful that cannabis may provide a gentle and effective response to glaucoma, and we’ll be keeping a close watch on this important topic. As firm believers in the power of medical marijuana, we’re always excited to share breaking news from the fascinating world of cannabis research.

Do you have further questions about cannabis for glaucoma? Just ask! We’re here to help.

Please note that qualifying conditions vary by state, and the information relating to qualifying conditions may not apply to cannabis patients in all states.

Product availability also varies based on state program restrictions and rules, so the products discussed may not be available in all states. Be sure to check with your local Green Goods location about the products available in your state!