Glaucoma is a leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide and affects more than 2.7 million people in the United States alone. It’s an insidious condition because its symptoms are often not obvious until it has already caused irreparable damage. Today, we’re going to talk about the use of CBD for glaucoma and its potential dangers.
CBD for glaucoma at a glance
Claim: CBD can help slow deterioration of vision caused by glaucoma.
What the studies show: While medical cannabis and THC have been lauded by many suffering from glaucoma due to its effect on intraocular pressure, a recent study on mice shows that CBD on its own may actually worsen the symptoms of glaucoma.
All the facts: If the December 2018 study is correct, unlike THC, which lowers intraocular pressure (IOP), CBD for glaucoma seems to raise it. Since maintaining a stable IOP can be a major factor in preserving the optic nerve and slowing the deterioration associated with glaucoma, CBD might not be the best option for those with glaucoma.
What exactly is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve. This nerve damage is usually related to increased pressure in the eye. As the optic nerve deteriorates over time, blind spots begin to develop. If untreated, glaucoma eventually causes blindness. Unfortunately, even with treatment, around 15% of people with glaucoma become blind in at least one eye within 20 years.
While glaucoma can occur at any age, it is much more common in older adults. The effect is often so gradual that many people don’t even realize there is a problem until the condition has already reached an advanced stage. If glaucoma is diagnosed early on, medical intervention can slow or even prevent vision loss. That said, people with glaucoma typically require continual treatment once it’s detected.
Symptoms of glaucoma vary depending on the type and stage of your condition, but often include:
- Blind spots, many times in both eyes
- Tunnel vision
- Severe headache
- Eye pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Halos around lights
- Eye redness
Because vision loss due to glaucoma can’t be recovered, it’s vital to have regular, comprehensive eye exams to catch this condition before significant damage occurs. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends having an eye exam every 5-10 years for those under 40, every 2-4 years if you’re between 40 and 54, every 1-3 years if you’re 55 to 64, and every 1-2 years if you’re older than 65. It’s also important to note that, if you’re at a higher risk of glaucoma, you should be screened even more frequently.
Risk factors include:
- High internal eye pressure
- Being over age 60
- Being black, Asian, or Hispanic
- Family history
- Medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, or sickle cell anemia
- Corneas that are thin in the center
- Extreme nearsightedness or farsightedness
- Suffering an eye injury
- Taking corticosteroid medications for a prolonged period
Can CBD be used to help with glaucoma?
The short answer here seems to be no. While THC and medical cannabis might play a role in helping those with glaucoma preserve their sight and regulate their intraocular pressure, CBD seems to have the opposite effect. In fact, the most recent study completed by researchers at Indiana University suggests that CBD can offset the IOP-lowering potential of THC, and even cancel it out completely.
These studies were not on human subjects, but they’ve raised enough concerns that some medical providers have stopped prescribing medical marijuana to those with glaucoma. At the very least, it has highlighted the need for more comprehensive studies to determine how various compounds from the cannabis plant affect our eye health in the long term.
What are the risks of using CBD for glaucoma?
CBD is considered to be both safe and well tolerated by most who use it. According to a recent study by the World Health Organization, CBD is not associated with abuse potential. That said, as mentioned earlier, there is the potential that CBD for glaucoma can raise intraocular pressure and worsen this condition.
Should I give CBD for glaucoma a try?
Due to the study released in December of 2018 suggesting that CBD might cause an increase in eye pressure, we can’t recommend taking CBD for glaucoma at this time. We hope larger, more comprehensive studies will be done to determine if results would prove similar on human subjects.
Because of this potential issue, if you are at a high risk for glaucoma or have been diagnosed with this condition, you should definitely talk to your doctor before adopting a CBD regimen. As always, if you’re currently taking any prescription medications, you should check with your pharmacist to ensure that CBD won’t interact with any of them in a negative way.