Senior man on an eye exam

Can CBD Help with Glaucoma?

In recent years, cannabidiol (CBD) has gained a reputation for aiding with just about every condition and disorder. It’s a reputation that has been well earned, with research finding CBD can treat everything from anxiety to epilepsy 1, 2 Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. (2015). Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics : the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, 12(4), 825–836. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1 Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. . Unfortunately, using CBD for glaucoma is a treatment option we can’t recommend you try.

What is Glaucoma?

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), glaucoma is a condition that can lead to blindness as a result of damage to the optic nerve 3 What is Glaucoma? Boyd, Kierstan. (2019). What is Glaucoma? American Academy of Ophthalmology. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-is-glaucoma Boyd, Kierstan . This degenerative eye disease starts with a buildup of fluid that then increases eye pressure, injuring the optic nerve as a result. For people over 60 years of age, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness—though blindness can usually be prevented if treatment is started early. 

CBD For Glaucoma —How Does it Work? 

Early research found that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) could be used to treat glaucoma by reducing the pressure within the eye 4 Marijuana as Medicine? The Science Beyond the Controversy. Mack A, Joy J. Marijuana as Medicine? The Science Beyond the Controversy. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2000. 9, MARIJUANA AND GLAUCOMA. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK224386/ Mack A, Joy J. . But the pressure reduction only lasted a few hours, which meant glaucoma sufferers had to use marijuana on an ongoing basis to keep the pressure down long-term. 

 

For some users, this was no problem. For others, constant use made it difficult to continue with regular life. Some hoped that using CBD for glaucoma might produce similar pressure-reducing results, without the high. Unfortunately, that turned out not to be the case.

Marijuana plant with joints used for glaucoma

What Does the Research Say?

Researchers in 2006 found that while THC did, in fact, continue to reduce eye pressure for people with glaucoma, using CBD for glaucoma had the opposite effect. No reduction of eye pressure occurred at all with 20 mg of CBD, and eye pressure actually increased when 40 mg of CBD was given 5 Effect of sublingual application of cannabinoids on intraocular pressure: a pilot study Tomida I, Azuara-Blanco A, House H, Flint M, Pertwee RG, Robson PJ. Effect of sublingual application of cannabinoids on intraocular pressure: a pilot study. J Glaucoma. 2006;15(5):349-353. doi:10.1097/01.ijg.0000212260.04488.60 Tomida I, Azuara-Blanco A, House H, Flint M, Pertwee RG, Robson PJ . These results were then replicated in 2018, with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) releasing a warning about the risk of CBD and blindness for patients with glaucoma shortly after that 6, 7 Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol Differentially Regulate Intraocular Pressure Sally Miller, Laura Daily, Emma Leishman, Heather Bradshaw, Alex Straiker. Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol Differentially Regulate Intraocular Pressure. Investigative Opthalmology & Visual Science, 2018; 59 (15): 5904 DOI: 10.1167/iovs.18-24838 Sally Miller, Laura Daily, Emma Leishman, Heather Bradshaw, Alex Straiker .

 

Knowing When to Skip CBD

CBD has a long list of potential health benefits, but it’s important to recognize that for as valuable a treatment option as CBD can be for some things, it isn’t always the best fit. That’s the case with using CBD for glaucoma. If you’ve been recently diagnosed with glaucoma, talk to your doctor about the treatment possibilities and choose the option you think best fits your lifestyle and needs—they are likely to agree that isn’t CBD.

 

If you were already using CBD for other reasons, make sure you also bring that use up with your doctor so that together you can decide whether or not it is safe to continue doing so. 

CBD for Glaucoma FAQs

Can CBD oil improve eyesight?

There is no research to suggest CBD oil can improve eyesight.

Can CBD cause eye problems?

Research has found that CBD can increase eye pressure, which is especially concerning for people with glaucoma 6 Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol Differentially Regulate Intraocular Pressure Sally Miller, Laura Daily, Emma Leishman, Heather Bradshaw, Alex Straiker. Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol Differentially Regulate Intraocular Pressure. Investigative Opthalmology & Visual Science, 2018; 59 (15): 5904 DOI: 10.1167/iovs.18-24838 Sally Miller, Laura Daily, Emma Leishman, Heather Bradshaw, Alex Straiker . But no research has suggested reasons for concern for those who do not already have this degenerative eye disease. 

What vitamin is good for cataracts?

Scientific studies have produced mixed results regarding the benefits of vitamins for cataracts, with some research suggesting that vitamins C and E may help prevent and reduce cataracts. Still, other studies have failed to replicate those results 8, 9 Inverse association of vitamin C with cataract in older people in India. Ravindran, R. D., Vashist, P., Gupta, S. K., Young, I. S., Maraini, G., Camparini, M., Jayanthi, R., John, N., Fitzpatrick, K. E., Chakravarthy, U., Ravilla, T. D., & Fletcher, A. E. (2011). Inverse association of vitamin C with cataract in older people in India. Ophthalmology, 118(10), 1958–1965.e2. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ophtha.2011.03.016 Ravindran, R. D., Vashist, P., Gupta, S. K., Young, I. S., Maraini, G., Camparini, M., Jayanthi, R., John, N., Fitzpatrick, K. E., Chakravarthy, U., Ravilla, T. D., & Fletcher, A. E. .  Several studies have ultimately concluded vitamin supplements do not help to treat cataracts 10 Can vitamin supplements help maintain your vision? InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Cataracts: Can vitamin supplements help maintain your vision? 2013 May 22 [Updated 2019 Oct 10]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK390313/ InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG .

Do cataract eye drops really work?

In 2015, researchers announced the testing of a product that could potentially be used to reduce cataracts with eye drops. As of now, their product is still in the testing phases and has not been released on the market—but the potential to treat cataracts with eye drops instead of surgery in the future absolutely exists 11 Pharmacological chaperone for α-crystallin partially restores transparency in cataract models. Makley, L. N., McMenimen, K. A., DeVree, B. T., Goldman, J. W., McGlasson, B. N., Rajagopal, P., Dunyak, B. M., McQuade, T. J., Thompson, A. D., Sunahara, R., Klevit, R. E., Andley, U. P., & Gestwicki, J. E. (2015). Pharmacological chaperone for α-crystallin partially restores transparency in cataract models. Science (New York, N.Y.), 350(6261), 674–677. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aac9145 Makley, L. N., McMenimen, K. A., DeVree, B. T., Goldman, J. W., McGlasson, B. N., Rajagopal, P., Dunyak, B. M., McQuade, T. J., Thompson, A. D., Sunahara, R., Klevit, R. E., Andley, U. P., & Gestwicki, J. E. .

Sources
  1. Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. (2015). Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics : the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, 12(4), 825–836. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1
  2. Silvestro, S., Mammana, S., Cavalli, E., Bramanti, P., & Mazzon, E. (2019). Use of Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Epilepsy: Efficacy and Security in Clinical Trials. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 24(8), 1459. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules24081459
  3. Boyd, Kierstan. (2019). What is Glaucoma? American Academy of Ophthalmology. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-is-glaucoma
  4. Mack A, Joy J. Marijuana as Medicine? The Science Beyond the Controversy. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2000. 9, MARIJUANA AND GLAUCOMA. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK224386/
  5. Tomida I, Azuara-Blanco A, House H, Flint M, Pertwee RG, Robson PJ. Effect of sublingual application of cannabinoids on intraocular pressure: a pilot study. J Glaucoma. 2006;15(5):349-353. doi:10.1097/01.ijg.0000212260.04488.60
  6. Sally Miller, Laura Daily, Emma Leishman, Heather Bradshaw, Alex Straiker. Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol Differentially Regulate Intraocular Pressure. Investigative Opthalmology & Visual Science, 2018; 59 (15): 5904 DOI: 10.1167/iovs.18-24838
  7. Valenti, Denise A. 2018. Is There a Risk of Blindness With CBD? Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/media/128545/download
  8. Ravindran, R. D., Vashist, P., Gupta, S. K., Young, I. S., Maraini, G., Camparini, M., Jayanthi, R., John, N., Fitzpatrick, K. E., Chakravarthy, U., Ravilla, T. D., & Fletcher, A. E. (2011). Inverse association of vitamin C with cataract in older people in India. Ophthalmology, 118(10), 1958–1965.e2. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ophtha.2011.03.016
  9. Christen, W. G., Glynn, R. J., Sesso, H. D., Kurth, T., MacFadyen, J., Bubes, V., Buring, J. E., Manson, J. E., & Gaziano, J. M. (2010). Age-related cataract in a randomized trial of vitamins E and C in men. Archives of ophthalmology (Chicago, Ill. : 1960), 128(11), 1397–1405. https://doi.org/10.1001/archophthalmol.2010.266
  10. InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Cataracts: Can vitamin supplements help maintain your vision? 2013 May 22 [Updated 2019 Oct 10]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK390313/
  11. Makley, L. N., McMenimen, K. A., DeVree, B. T., Goldman, J. W., McGlasson, B. N., Rajagopal, P., Dunyak, B. M., McQuade, T. J., Thompson, A. D., Sunahara, R., Klevit, R. E., Andley, U. P., & Gestwicki, J. E. (2015). Pharmacological chaperone for α-crystallin partially restores transparency in cataract models. Science (New York, N.Y.), 350(6261), 674–677. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aac9145

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