Glaucoma is one of the medical conditions that qualify Floridians for legal use of cannabis also known as medical marijuana. Glaucoma is the second-leading cause of permanent blindness and is often undiagnosed until vision loss becomes noticeable. It is caused by elevated pressure in the eye, which damages the optic nerve. Optometrists usually test for glaucoma during routine vision exams. The test to measure eye pressure is non-invasive, inexpensive, painless, and lasts a second. If the pressure is high, other tests may be advised and medication prescribed.
The reason why marijuana is prescribed for glaucoma is because it has been proven to reduce this pressure. THC and other cannabinoids, compounds that are naturally found in marijuana, have been clinically proven to be effective in removing this pressure. Additionally, the reduction of pressure still occurs whether the marijuana is administered through both smoking and edibles.
This testing is important because the initial symptoms of glaucoma are a gradual decrease in one’s side vision. This is usually a loss that is not readily noticed by people who have early-stage glaucoma. Other symptoms of increasing eye pressure are sudden pain one or both eyes, blurred vision, headaches, and seeing halos around lights. Unfortunately, it is progressive and eventually affects central vision which is critical to nearly every daily activity including reading and driving.
Early detection is critical to stopping the advance of glaucoma and saving sight. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends a complete eye exam every five to ten years including a test for glaucoma if you have no known risk factors. If you are over 40 or have any of the following risk factors, you should be tested as frequently as your vision professional recommends:
- Family history of glaucoma
- Black racial ancestry
- Nearsightedness or farsightedness (myopia and hyperopia)
- A recent eye injury or a serious injury recently or in the past
- Increased eye pressure in any previous test
- Cortisone, also called steroids, use in any form: by mouth, by injection, or by insertion in the eye
- Aging — risk increases with the passing years.
Eye drops that reduce eye pressure are the standard treatment to stop or slow the progression of vision loss due to glaucoma. Research, first performed in the 1970s, shows that cannabis lowers eye pressure. Healthline reports that cannabis is a treatment to consider in conjunction with prescribed medication. This is particularly desirable when the medication causes side effects or does not reduce eye pressure to the appropriate degree. People with end-stage glaucoma have found that cannabis can reduce anxiety over failing vision and, thus, improves quality of life.