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This is a hot topic due to more states adopting the use of marijuana as medical therapy for numerous conditions. We will limit our discussion to its use in eye care.

 

Glaucoma And Medical Marijuana

First off, what is glaucoma? it is a disease of the optic nerve that can lead to blindness. The optic nerve carries information from the eye to the brain to be processed. There are various mechanisms of action we theorize that make up a host of conditions we classify as glaucoma, but the only method we currently have is the reduction and management of the eye’s pressure. If we lower the pressure then the nerve is able to function better and less damage will occur over time. ( Read Article: 10 Facts To Know About Glaucoma )

Secondly, there are studies done by the government in the 1970s that show a correlation and effectiveness of marijuana to glaucoma by reducing the intraocular pressure in the eye by around 25% as well as lowers blood pressure which can actually be harmful to the eye. In a more recent study, it is suggested that it may also improve night vision.  ( Read Article: Marijuana’s Effect On Night Vision )

So what’s the catch? One, the half-life is short, meaning the effects only last 3-4 hours. Ingesting it in an eatable form was shown not to be of much benefit, and that only inhaling the smoke was effective at reducing the pressures. The mental altering effect combined with needing to use it every 4 hours to be effective wouldn’t work out well when needing a clear head for critical thinking and performing certain tasks and being successful in certain careers.

It has been shown to reduce the immune system. Reduction of memory and concentration are also side effects. The lungs are affected and there is a link to cancer. Long term use may also damage the eyes by increasing the chance of macular degeneration.

When formulating a treatment plan for a patient, we must take into account many factors. Overall health, allergies, other medications, vitamins and herbs, profession, economic impact, effectiveness and standards of care are all considerations. Why would we prescribe a treatment a patient could not afford to maintain or one they would struggle to comply with? We are oath-bound “to do no harm”. There are philosophical differences between providers. Our take is to educate a patient so that we can agree on the right course of treatment together and they understand the reasons for treatment and the goals of therapy.