With 20 states allowing some form of medical marijuana usage and the recent legalization of marijuana in both Colorado and Washington, we are getting more questions about marijuana as a possible treatment for glaucoma. Glaucoma is an eye condition where the eye pressure is too high. This can cause damage to the optic nerve in the back of the eye and possible vision loss. It is generally treated with eye drops but sometimes laser treatment or surgery is required.
Most people have heard that marijuana can lower eye pressure. There are several problems to using this as a treatment for glaucoma, however. Firstly, the positive effects of marijuana on eye pressure only last a short time. This means that the patient would have to smoke cannabis every 3 hours, that’s 8 times a day! Secondly, the mood-altering effects of marijuana use on mental functioning make tasks such as driving and operating machinery hazardous. Also of concern are the hundreds of other components in marijuana cigarettes that could damage the lungs and the unknown effects of chronic usage on the brain.
So why not just use the active ingredient of marijuana called tetra-hydrocannabinol (THC) instead of smoking marijuana? While this method would eliminate the harmful effects of smoking on the lungs, those benefits are curbed by the other systemic side effects such as loss of judgment and drowsiness.
With that, we recommend sticking with conventional glaucoma treatments such as drops, lasers or surgery! If you have glaucoma, be sure to take your drops as directed and have frequent follow-up examinations to be sure that this potentially sight threatening condition is being adequately managed.
Dr. Mark German is an Optometrist practicing at Lakeshore Eye Care Professionals with Dr. Martha Jay and Dr. Josephine-Liezl Cueto. He welcomes patients of all ages into his practice and accepts most insurance plans, including Medicare Assignment.
For more eye care information, call 262-241-1919 or visit www.LakeShoreVision.com.