Blog post by: Eye Physicians of Long Beach

As medical marijuana becomes more readily available, physicians find themselves in the difficult position of determining which patients have a legitimate need for the deregulated drug. Though marijuana has long been lauded as an effective treatment for glaucoma, there is no evidence that it can benefit the course of the disease.
Those suffering from glaucoma experience increased intraocular pressure, resulting in reduced side vision. This excessive pressure causes optic nerve damage which is the underlying reason behind the reduced side vision problem. Eye drops or surgery can reduce the pressure in the hope of preventing optical nerve damage. Some claim that marijuana provides similar results.
While patients continue to request medical cannabis for their glaucoma, research has repeatedly shown that it is not nearly as effective as other treatments. Some ophthalmologists have been vocal in their protest against marijuana as a glaucoma therapy, insisting that it lacks convincing results. In studies on the effectiveness of marijuana on intraocular pressure, a lowering of no more than 20-30% was observed which lasted 3-4 hours.
The amount of marijuana that would need to be consumed for this to be an effective treatment could have potentially negative effects upon patient lifestyle and their eye health. Using marijuana every 3-4 hours could make it difficult for those with glaucoma to lead a normal life or even perform tasks like driving a car. Risks involved with marijuana use include increased heart rate and reduced blood pressure. That reduction in blood pressure could result in a reduction in blood flow to the optic nerve. That reduction in blood flow could negate the benefit of eye pressure lowering. Extended use of marijuana, such as would be required to treat glaucoma, also has been proven to cause reduced concentration and short term memory capacities.
Due to the side effects of marijuana use and the limited treatment results, marijuana is not widely accepted as an effective glaucoma therapy. In fact, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, based on analysis done by the Institute of Medicine and the National Eye Institute has recently restated that they do not recommend marijuana for the treatment of glaucoma. If you need treatment for glaucoma we recommend you come in for a consultation with one of our doctors.