According to numerous studies published recently, medical marijuana holds great promise as a possible treatment for glaucoma. Statistics collected by the National Society for Prevention of Blindness indicate that more than four million Americans are afflicted with the eye disease glaucoma with 178,000 new cases of glaucoma being diagnosed each year. It is the leading cause of blindness in the United States that is prevalent in all age groups, most often seen in people over the age of 65 . Open angle or chronic glaucoma is one of the most common forms of glaucoma that is characterized by an increase in the IOP (intraocular pressure) within the eye that potentially damages the optic nerve if the condition is not treated and controlled effectively sandiegomagazine.com.
There are other types of glaucoma such as secondary or narrow angle glaucoma whose primary treatment is through surgery. A combination of oral medications and topical preparations is used to control 90% of the cases of open angle and narrow angle glaucoma. Around 10% of all cases fail to be treated or controlled effectively using the prescription drugs that are available currently .
These glaucoma medications are known to trigger side effects such as insomnia, anxiety, blurred vision, kidney stones, headaches, a burning sensation of the eyes, headaches, nervous anxiety, and cardiac arrhythmias that results in patients discontinuing their use. Principal investigator in controlled studies at UCLA, Dr. Robert Hepler, reported that compared to conventional medications, medical marijuana was more effective in reducing eye pressure. On an average, patients who smoked MMJ experienced a 30% decrease in eye pressure depending on the dose and the effect lasted at least four to five hours.
Medical cannabis could eliminate the requirement for surgical intervention that costs Americans an estimated USD 8.8 million annually. A pharmaceutical company in the West Indies has developed eye drops containing synthetic marijuana. However, this is currently not available in the United States. Several other pharmaceutical companies are currently investigating drugs that possess a chemical similarity to the various psychoactive ingredients in cannabis that might have possible glaucoma applications.
Currently, the only marijuana that has been approved for medical use at the federal level is a synthetic form of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the most active component of marijuana called Marinol. Manufactured in a capsule form, it can be taken orally and was initially developed as an antiemetic in chemotherapy treatments. Natural marijuana consistently decreases IOP as synthetic THC is effective for only a short period of time.