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Is it true that marijuana helps glaucoma?

Studies sponsored by the federal National Eye Institute demonstrated that some derivatives of marijuana did result in lowering of intraocular pressure (IOP) when administered orally, intravenously, or by smoking, but not when topically applied to the eye. The duration of the pressure-lowering effect is reported to be in the range of three to four hours. Because the duration of the induced fall in IOP is short, an individual would have to smoke a marijuana cigarette eight or ten times a day in order to control IOP over 24 hours.

Potentially serious side effects associated with smoking marijuana include an increased heart rate and a decrease in blood pressure. Studies of single-administration marijuana use have shown a lowering of blood pressure concurrent with the lowering of IOP. This raises concerns that there may be compromised blood flow to the optic nerve, but no data have been published on the long-term systemic and ocular effects from the use of marijuana by patients with glaucoma. Other adverse effects from the use of marijuana that have been reported include conjunctival hyperemia, impaired immune-system response, impaired memory for recent events, difficulty concentrating, impaired motor coordination, tolerance to repeated doses, decreased testosterone in men who are chronic users, and short-term withdrawal symptoms after cessation. Smoking of marijuana also can lead to emphysema-like lung changes, increased risk of cancer, and poor pregnancy outcomes.

Based on a search of published peer-reviewed literature, no scientific evidence has been found that demonstrates increased benefits or diminished risks of marijuana use to treat glaucoma compared with the wide variety of pharmaceutical agents now available.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.