Treating Degenerative Eye Disease with Cannabis

Degenerative eye diseases typically affect aging eyes. For example, glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve and can result in vision loss and blindness. While it can be treated, it cannot be cured, meaning eventually people will lose their eyesight to the disease. The progression of the disease is not typically painful, although the pressure on the eye can be quite high. Pain comes in during angle-closure glaucoma.

When patients have an acute angle-closure glaucoma attack, they can experience such severe pain it causes headaches, nausea, or even vomiting. In an acute angle-closure glaucoma attack, eye pressure rises rapidly, causes pain, and causes the cornea to become cloudy. These types of attacks can be relieved by lowering the eye pressure with medications and performing laser iridotomy, which makes a microscopic hole in the iris under the upper eyelid. The opening allows the reduction of fluid build-up and reduces eye pressure.

Additionally, secondary forms of angle-closure glaucoma can also be painful. For example, neovascular glaucoma happens when the drainage angle of new blood vessels on the iris become blocked off. The blocked vessels can lead to a buildup of pressure in the eye, leading to severe eye pain.

Lastly, uveitic glaucoma, which is a secondary form of glaucoma related to uveitis (inflammation of the eye), can cause a rise in eye pressure or scarring in the angle that can lead to eye pressure, causing pain.

Glaucoma is one of the only qualifying conditions for which people can get a medical marijuana license if all other conventional treatment methods have been exhausted. Likewise, eye disease is one of the top 10 diseases where cannabis can have a profound medicinal impact. Scientists have examined THC’s effect on glaucoma and found it can lower eye pressure. However, it also can lower blood pressure, which could harm the optic nerve because of reduced blood supply.

Currently, scientists are considering cannabinoid therapies applied directly to the eye, which could treat the inflammation and negate the potential issues surrounding optic nerve damage as a result of reduced blood pressure.

Because of these potential hazards, medical marijuana is used to treat glaucoma when no other traditional methods have been explored. However, as scientists continue to study the potential of cannabis to treat various degenerative eye diseases, they will also be looking at a way to offset the potential dangers it poses by lowering blood pressure.

If you have developed glaucoma and would like to discuss the possibility of medical marijuana with a skilled physician, talk to our New Jersey medical marijuana doctor. Andrew Medvedovsky, MD is the director at New Jersey Alternative Medicine and is dedicated to helping people manage their pain. Let us see what we can do for you.

Contact us at (856) 351-5277 or fill out our online form to request an appointment today.