does marijuana help cataracts

Does Cannabis Really Help with Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is one of the most serious and prevalent vision disorders, affecting some 60.6 million people worldwide. In the United States alone, more than 2.7 million adults age 40 and over are afflicted. This condition disproportionately affects senior citizens, and it is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide.

One of the keys to treating this condition is early intervention. Unfortunately, this condition tends to creep up on its sufferers, who seldom experience noticeable symptoms until they’ve already sustained significant vision loss. For that reason, it’s essential to have regular comprehensive eye exams, particularly if you’re over the age of 60.

Over time, the increased intra-ocular pressure associated with glaucoma can destroy the optic nerve, causing irreversible vision loss. Since there is currently no cure for glaucoma, the best you can do is control its advancement. Glaucoma surgery, various laser treatments, eye drops, and pills all aim to help reduce the pressure within the eye to prevent optic nerve damage.

For years, a popular if somewhat controversial treatment for this condition has been medical marijuana. Some studies conducted in the 1970s found that THC, the active compound in marijuana, seemed to help reduce intraocular pressure (or IOC).

It’s easy to see why marijuana has caught on as an alternative treatment for glaucoma, appealing particularly to people who prefer naturopathic alternatives to Western medicine. But is it really a viable treatment?

How Does Marijuana Affect Glaucoma?

Marijuana lowers your blood pressure, which in turn reduces the blood supply to the optic nerve. This helps decrease intraocular pressure, which can help protect the patient against optic nerve damage.

However, the study referenced above found that marijuana only reduced intraocular pressure for about three to four hours at a time. In other words, consuming THC might be a suitable quick fix for glaucoma sufferers, but it’s not a viable long-term solution. To prevent irreversible vision loss, this condition must be controlled 24 hours a day, not just sporadically throughout the day.

There are also some obvious drawbacks associated with medical marijuana that will be familiar to anybody who has used it. In addition to lowering blood pressure, the THC in marijuana can cause undesirable side effects including short-term memory problems, tachycardia, and anxiety.

While it’s tempting to imagine that marijuana’s “natural” properties mean it’s safer than conventional pharmaceuticals, it’s important to consider that marijuana is not FDA-regulated, which means it isn’t subject to the same standards and practices governing prescription drugs.

It’s also important to keep in mind that any marijuana not purchases at a dispensary is at risk of being cut with other substances, or simply not a high enough grade to have any meaningful medicinal value.

So What Are My Treatment Options?

Marijuana may not be an ideal solution, but there are still numerous other courses of treatment that can help control the progression of the disease and prevent future vision loss.

  • Eye drops: These drops are placed directly into the eye and absorbed into the bloodstream, reducing intraocular pressure. They can be prescribed by your ophthalmologist and must be used exactly as directed to be effective.
  • Pills: Sometimes prescribed alongside eye drops, pills can help to control the eyes’ fluid production, further reducing symptoms. They are typically taken two to four times a day. However, it’s important to note that they can have more systemic side effects than drops alone.
  • Glaucoma surgery: Not everybody with the condition will require surgical treatment, but it can be the best line of defense in more advanced cases. The most common type of glaucoma surgery is intended to treat the “open-angle” form of the disease, and involves using a laser to make a small opening allowing aqueous fluid to more easily pass through the eye, reducing IOP.

No treatment is one-size-fits-all, and depending on the severity and progression of your vision loss your ophthalmologist may prescribe one or more for you. But before treatment can even occur, a diagnosis must be made.

The most important point to take away from this article is this: The biggest key to preserving your eye health is prevention, and that means getting regular eye exams, especially if you’re a senior citizen. Vision loss can’t always be reversed, but the conditions that cause it can often be controlled.


Whether you’re experiencing vision loss, Florida Eye Specialists and Cataract Institute considers your eye health a top priority. We’re in the business of helping people care for their precious sight, and the best way to preserve our most vital of senses is through prevention. That’s why we encourage all our patients to get regular eye exams.

Please contact us for more information or to schedule an exam.

Medical Marijuana may affect glaucoma Learn more from Florida Eye Specialists and Cataract Institute about cannabis and other treatment options available.

Cataracts and cannabis: Is there a treatment connection?

With stigmas easing, more adults are turning to the medicinal benefits of CBD and cannabis to treat eye conditions like cataracts.

Symptoms of cataracts include fading colour, blurred vision, problems with lights “glaring”, poor night vision and double-vision. Photo by / Photo: nd3000 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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    Article content

    Affecting almost 25 million Americans, cataracts cloud the eye, reduce vision, dull colours and, when not treated, can cause blindness. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cataract is the leading cause of blindness globally.

    The American Academy of Ophthalmology states that while Americans have treatment options for cataract diseases, many don’t understand something is wrong with their eyes until it’s too late. Slightly more common in women than men, cataracts are a growing issue that is affecting vision and quality of life.

    Cataracts and cannabis: Is there a treatment connection? Back to video

    Symptoms of cataracts include fading colour, blurred vision, problems with lights “glaring”, poor night vision and double-vision.

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    Article content continued

    The Barnet Dulaney Perkins Eye Center explains that while age is the primary cause of cataract-related issues, diseases such as diabetes and medications such as steroids can increase the risk of developing cataracts later in life.

    According to the National Eye Institute, “The risk of cataract increases with each decade of life starting around age 40. By age 75, half of white Americans have cataract diseases.”

    By 2050, the institute estimates that cataract numbers will double from 24.4 million adults to 50 million adults experiencing cataract issues. The data suggests those most at risk of a rapid increase are Hispanic Americans.

    “Most cataracts are age-related — they happen because of normal changes in your eyes as you get older. But you can get cataracts for other reasons — for example, after an eye injury or after surgery for another eye problem (like glaucoma),” the institute reports.

    Turning to Cannabis

    With stigmas easing, more adults are turning to the medicinal benefits of CBD and cannabis to treat eye conditions like cataracts. Harvard Health’s blog illustrates that many Americans are looking for different approaches to pain and age-related diseases. With 94 per cent of Americans surveyed in a recent poll supporting legal access to weed, many people are seeking out the medicine- more than ever before. In fact, The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that cannabis use has been steadily increasing with adults who are 65 or older from 2.4 per cent in 2015 to 4.2 per cent in 2018.

    Studies are limited about marijuana and cataracts, but cannabis does appear to have benefits with glaucoma. / Photo: Chinnapong / iStock / Getty Images Plus Photo by Chinnapong / iStock / Getty Images Plus

    The American Academy of Ophthalmology stated that while studies are limited about marijuana and cataracts, cannabis does appear to have benefits with glaucoma, lowering intraocular pressure if dosed correctly.

    The bottom line

    With few studies available or in queue for cannabis’ effects on eye health, it is best to talk to your ophthalmologist if you are using cannabis or CBD, and find out if any risk factors exist.

    As the stigma around weed continues to lessen, many older Americans are looking for new treatments for old issues. Scientists, no doubt, will want to keep up with trends and create new pathways for medicines to heal the body.

    With stigmas easing, more adults are turning to the medicinal benefits of CBD and cannabis to treat eye conditions like cataracts.