Glaucoma and Medical Marijuana

Glaucoma is a disease of the eye that will eventually cause blindness by attacking the optic nerve. Presently there is no cure. It is the leading cause of blindness and comes unannounced, without symptoms. Everyone is at risk for this disease and the only way to know whether you have it, or to treat it, is through regular visits to the opthamologist. Once you hit age 35 you should see an opthamologist for a ‘baseline’ visit. See them again at age 40 and then, if you do not have any special eye needs besides corrective lenses, you should come back every two to four years. Once you hit age 60, this should be an annual event. Early detection is the key to proper treatment. Now if you do have any eye disease you should be seen at least on an annual basis by an opthamologist.

When the opthamologist is testing you for glaucoma what they are looking for are several things; an increase in inner eye pressure and corneas that may be too thin. The four different tests that the opthamologist may do would be tonometry. Numbing drops are put in your eyes and then a device is placed against your eye and measures the pressure within your eye. Opthalmalscopy is done in a darkened room with an opthalmalscope, a small device with a light at the end. This device is used to magnify your eye and specifically look at your optic nerve. The doctor is looking for both the shape and color of your optic nerve. Typically these are the only two tests done unless the doctor sees something unusual with your optic nerve.

When the pressure within your eye remains high, damage continues to be done to the optic nerve, leading to blindness. For many years proponents of medical marijuana have claimed that smoking marijuana lowers the blood pressure within the eye, thus protecting against the ravages of glaucoma. Researchers, and the Glaucoma Foundation, have agreed that smoking marijuana does in fact lower the eye pressure. They emphasize that in order to receive the benefits of marijuana one would have to smoke a joint every three hours in order to keep the pressure lowered.

The good news is whether you rely on the information of research programs, and foundations versus first hand information case studies, there are new options out there for you. The Researchers will tell you that the new medications now lower the intraocular pressure without any of the harmful effects of marijuana.

Always, we recommend discussing this with your physician who will probably direct you to the new medication first, and if that does not lower your eye pressure will then recommend smoking marijuana if you are in a state that has legalized it’s use for medical purposes.

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