Glaucoma and Marijuana

Eye Care & Surgery Center NJ Bladeless LASIK Laser Cataract Surgeon Blog

Friday, May 13, 2011

Glaucoma and Marijuana

Thank you to Dr. Joel Confino, our guest blogger today, for sharing his insights and knowledge with us.

Alternative medicine and therapy have been increasing in popularity in recent years. One of the areas of interest has been the treatment of glaucoma with marijuana. Glaucoma is an eye disease resulting in loss of vision from damage to the optic nerve. One of the many factors that can cause this is elevated intra-ocular pressure, or IOP. There are various standard treatments for glaucoma, including eye drops, laser surgery and standard surgery.

Marijuana has been studied with regard to potential medical benefits, (in addition to the known recreational benefits!). Many states have passed medical marijuana laws so that chronic pain sufferers and others can gain relief from some of the proven, positive effects of the substance.

An initial study in the 1970’s reported lowering IOP with the use of marijuana. The active ingredient was identified and analyzed when administered in various forms, such as via smoking, oral intake or eye drops. The lowering effect upon IOP was found to be of short duration, less than that of standard treatments such as eye drops. The best effective route of administration was via smoking, followed by oral and intravenous methods. The eye drops were not effective in lowering IOP. In addition, the quantities of the drug that were required to achieve an adequate IOP lowering effect were too high, and resulted in many well-known side effects, such as red eye, increased heart rate, decreased motor coordination, memory and concentration, as well as lung disease. As a result it has not been approved for the treatment of glaucoma.

It is possible that in the future, a more effective formulation for an eye drop will be developed. There are other potential health benefits for the eye, such as the treatment of macular degeneration, which has not yet been proven but is of theoretical interest due to the anti-oxidant effect of the drug.

In summary, marijuana will not be found stocked among the eye drops in the drugstore anytime soon, but future studies and formulations of the active ingredient could potentially lead to a method of use that is safe and effective.