CBD Oil and Glaucoma: What Doctors Say

CBD oil or cannabidiol oil is a product derived from the cannabis plant. It is a naturally occurring chemical from the plant that does not induce the typical marijuana“high” that the drug is known for. Instead, this cannabinoid is known for its possible health benefits and medical uses. These benefits include anxiety relief, anti-seizure, pain relief, and cancer treatment. And then there’s the treatment for glaucoma, which, to date, has conflicting reports on the oil’s efficacy on the disease. In this article, we will understand more about CBD oil and glaucoma and the different studies surrounding this rather controversial method of treatment.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a common and progressive eye condition that damages the optic nerve in the eye, which is vital for good vision. When left untreated, this disease can lead to irreversible blindness. In the United States alone, there are about three million Americans who are living with this condition. This figure balloons up to 60 million worldwide. 

This condition is often linked to a buildup of pressure, called intraocular pressure, inside the eyes, and people will often only know about it later on in their lives. The pressure exerted on the eye can cause damage to the nerves, which in turn causes blind spots to occur within the visual field of the person. Unfortunately, once this damage has been done, there is no known cure. Most people with this disease will have no early symptoms of it, and the only way to detect it early is to have regular glaucoma tests. The exact cause of this buildup continues to remain a mystery, but experts have often linked the condition to genetics, which means that if your parents have it, there is a big chance, you’ll suffer from it too.

To date, there are a number of treatments available for this disease, including eye drops, oral medication, and surgery. There are several types of glaucoma surgery, each with its own advantages and disadvantages, but all treatments are aimed at improving drainage and lowering the creation of the fluid in the eyes in order to prevent vision loss or eventual blindness. Unfortunately, these treatments come with some adverse effects. In the case of eye drops and oral medication, side effects include allergies, stinging, irritated eyes, and blurred vision. And as with any operation, glaucoma surgeries also have their own risks.

It is at this point that CBD oils make their appearance.

So, What are CBD Oils?

Cannabidiol is a compound found in marijuana that has been studied for many years for its potential as anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-epileptic properties, among many others. Unlike another notable marijuana compound called THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD does not possess psychoactive and ‘mind-altering properties. It interacts with our endocannabinoid system, particularly with the CB1 and CB2 receptors, which are responsible for several vital functions like digestion, sleep, pain reception, mood, and immune system activities. Nowadays, products containing this cannabinoid are gaining popularity, and several studies have raved about its wondrous effects, including in the treatment of glaucoma.

Going back to the 1970s, several studies have found that the ingestion of marijuana lowered the intraocular pressure by 25% to 30%. Despite these early findings, however, very few ophthalmologists supported the use of marijuana for glaucoma because the drug’s therapeutic effects are only effective in a short period of time. This means that in order to achieve consistently lowered eye pressure, patients would have to consume once every three to four hours. This, therefore, completely rules out oral consumption, as well as inhalation of cannabis for glaucoma treatment.

That leaves topical preparations, like CBD oil.

CBD Oils Reduced the Intraocular Pressure in the Eyes

While treatments like eye drops, oral medications, and surgeries only delay the progression of glaucoma in patients, CBD oils seem to get to the root cause of the condition by reducing the intraocular pressure in the eyes and creating neuroprotective effects. A study conducted in 2016 also showed that CBD oils could provide retinal production and restore normal vision on certain eye problems unrelated to glaucoma. Still, another study also found that cannabinoid’s anti-inflammatory properties can effectively reduce any swelling in the cornea.

Due to the number of people who swear by the CBD oils as a godsend for their eye condition, and because WHO has reported the compound as safe, there are now several types of CBD oils in the market today: isolates, broad-spectrum, and full spectrum. 

Isolates are, as the name implies, 99% CBD content. While these types provide consistent CBD doses, they do not benefit from the entourage effect. Broad-spectrum, on the other hand, contains many other cannabinoids and terpenes found in the marijuana plant except the well-known THC concentrate. Lastly, full-spectrum CBD oils contain the complete compounds and active ingredients in cannabis plants, including at least 0.3% of the THC compound. The presence of THC in these types of CBD oil enables it to produce better health benefits.

CBD Oils are Ineffective as Glaucoma Treatments

On the other hand, a number of studies have also come out showing that the use of CBD oils resulted in an increase in eye pressure, consequently increasing the risks of glaucoma on the test subjects. One study, which was published in the Journal of Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, administered the psychoactive THC compound and CBD on the test subjects. While the single topical application of THC resulted in lower intraocular pressure, the CBD compound actually negated this effect. Similar results were derived in another study published in the Journal of Glaucoma – administration of THC to patients lowered the pressure buildup while CBD did not. In fact, when given 40mg of CBD, the patients showed a significant increase in their intraocular pressure.

From the conflicting studies above, many ophthalmologists do not highly recommend and caution the use of CBD oil as a primary treatment of glaucoma. The good news is that with the development of marijuana-derived medication, patients can be assured of a promising future for CBD oil and Glaucoma.