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What is glaucoma? One of the leading causes of blindness, the disease is characterized by a progressive degeneration of the optic nerve in the eye. If it isn’t detected early on, glaucoma can serve as the catalyst to a loss of nerve tissue, leading to gradual and irreversible vision loss, or full blindness.1

Associated with increased fluid pressure in the eye, there are four distinct types of glaucoma: angle-closure, secondary, normal-tension and, the most common form, primary open-angle glaucoma. The latter occurs when the eye’s fluids stop draining properly, causing intense pressure on the optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting all of the information the eye sees to the brain.2

A complicated disease, glaucoma produces virtually no symptoms in its initial stages. In fact, most people who experience open-angle glaucoma typically show no signs because the first bit of vision loss comes from the side, or periphery, and the acuity and sharpness of vision is maintained until the disease has progressed.

The symptoms that someone with glaucoma is likely to experience include hazy and blurred vision; severe eye and head pain; nausea and vomiting; sudden sight loss; and the appearance of rainbow-coloured circles appearing around bright lights. When one or more of these signs appear, it’s imperative to see an ophthalmologist immediately.3

While there is no direct cure for glaucoma, the number of treatment options is robust. The list includes traditional medicines like eye drops and pharmaceutical prescriptions, laser trabeculoplasty and conventional surgery. One of the most common alternative treatment options for treating glaucoma is cannabis therapy, which helps to reduce eye pressure caused by the disease.4

Though smoking cannabis is not recommended for the treatment of symptoms associated with glaucoma, the use of oils and sublinguals have both proven effective in this context. One recent study found that patients with worsening glaucoma who used pills or flowers containing THC were almost 100 percent likely to drop their primary medications after using the cannabis for nine months. There has even been research into the use of THC-based eye drops, though the science in this area is still in the nascent stage.5 

Globally, glaucoma is currently the second-leading cause of blindness and the leading cause for men and women of African descent. Statistics are quite disparate from country to country, and race to race. In Australia, for instance, only 2-3 percent of the population is diagnosed with open-angle glaucoma, where those numbers are 1-8 and 7-9 percent in Africa and the Caribbean, respectfully.6

A disease that continues to add numbers to its statistics, glaucoma finds prevalence among seniors and older adults. It has also been shown to disproportionately affect people with a family history of eye disease. Higher eye pressure at baseline is cited as a predictive factor, while lowering eye pressure has been shown to delay onset and reduce the risk of the progressive disease. 

  1. Glaucoma. https://opto.ca/health-library/about-glaucoma
  2. What are the different types of glaucoma. http://www.visionaware.org/info/your-eye-condition/glaucoma/the-different-types-of-glaucoma/125
  3. What are the symptoms of glaucoma? https://www.glaucoma.org/gleams/what-are-the-symptoms-of-glaucoma.php
  4. Facts about glaucoma. https://nei.nih.gov/health/glaucoma/glaucoma_facts
  5. Should you be using marijuana to treat your glaucoma? https://www.glaucoma.org/treatment/should-you-be-smoking-marijuana-to-treat-your-glaucoma-1.php
  6. Glaucoma. https://www.myvmc.com/diseases/glaucoma/

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