WHAT IS GLAUCOMA?
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the optic nerve, a cable that carries visual information from the eye to the brain.
In open-angle glaucoma, the most common form of the disease, fluid passing through the anterior chamber drains too slowly, leading to increased intraocular pressure (IOP). This pressure can damage the optic nerve, leading to vision loss or blindness. High blood pressure is also a risk factor.
There are two types of glaucoma:
- Primary open-angle glaucoma: Blockage is caused by material shed by the inner eye, inflammation, or scarring from an injury or infection
- Angle-closure glaucoma: The iris is too close to the drainage angle and eventually grows over it
Glaucoma has a hereditary factor and often does not appear until after age 60; however, the disease can be present in young patients and even newborn babies.
High eye pressure alone does not cause glaucoma, although it is a significant risk factor. Individuals diagnosed with high eye pressure should have regular, comprehensive eye examinations by an eye-care professional to monitor signs of glaucoma.
Currently, vision loss from glaucoma cannot be restored. Early detection and treatment can prevent vision loss. Glaucoma is treated with medication to lower pressure in the eye and, in some cases, with surgery.
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world.
Most people with open-angle glaucoma do not notice any symptoms until they begin to develop blind spots in their peripheral vision.
Patients with angle-closure glaucoma sometimes experience a sudden, acute attack, with one or more of the following symptoms:
- Blurred vision
- Redness in the eye
- Severe pain in the eye or forehead
This is a medical emergency requiring immediate attention.
HOW MEDICAL MARIJUANA HELPS GLAUCOMA PATIENTS
Many patients cannot tolerate the side effects of traditional glaucoma medications, which include: palpitations, tachycardia, and altered mental states. Medical marijuana often serves as an effective alternative.
While researchers are torn on what causes marijuana’s IOP-lowering effect – some think it’s related to the plant’s ability to lower blood pressure while others suggest the drug acts on cannabinoid receptors in the eye, decreasing fluid production (instead of directly altering pressure) – one thing is certain:
Marijuana has been shown to consistently lower IOP by approximately 25% in the majority (60-65%) of both glaucoma and non-glaucoma patients.