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Cbd oil for eyes macular degeneration

Cannabis and Macular Degeneration: Can It Help?

There was a time when people correlated marijuana and the eyes only with dryness, redness and dilated pupils. Time (and some very pinpointed research) has indeed changed this perception for the better. Now there is an overall consensus of the power of cannabis to help with some eye afflictions, especially glaucoma. But what about the BIG ONE that is estimated to affect 6.3 million baby boomers alone by the year 2030? Might cannabinoid therapy be able to help with age-related macular degeneration as well?

What is Macular Degeneration?

According to the American Macular Degeneration Association, macular degeneration (or MD) is the leading cause of vision loss in the country, currently affecting more than 10 million Americans of all ages, more than cataracts and glaucoma combined. Considered an “incurable disease,” MD is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, i.e. the inside back layer of our eye that first “records” images before they are sent to the optic nerve and brain, where they are translated into scenes we can comprehend. The job of the “macula” is to focus the central vision of the eye. It controls our ability to read, drive and recognize colors and faces. We are able to see details in objects because of the macula as well.

When the cells of the macula begin to deteriorate, the result is that images are not received correctly. In the early and intermediate stages of the disease, blurred vision or waviness may occur. As MD worsens, however, central vision may become lost altogether (although peripheral sight remains).

As we shall see, there are quite a few attributes of cannabis that may correlate it chemically with MD relief. But first, let’s hear about one case where the results of CBD oil in particular on Intermediate MD were crystal clear.

Fabi’s Story

Fabi is a small business owner and active part of the tiny, artist community of Taos, New Mexico. About a year ago, Fabi contracted a tick-born disease. At the suggestion of a friend, Fabi began using a straight CBD oil that she was able to obtain at her local herb store for the condition. She started using the CBD oil internally as instructed by the trained herbalist on staff there.

While she says that her disease symptoms did seem to disappear while she has been on the CBD oil (although she couldn’t say for sure because her symptoms tend to come and go), ANOTHER healthy side effect of CBD was undeniable.

Fabi had also been suffering from macular degeneration for a while (longer than the tick-born illness). About three weeks after starting to use CBD oil, Fabi went to an appointment with her eye doctor. In the beginning months of her MD diagnosis, she received the “standard of care” for someone with her condition: injections of either Lucentis, Avastin or Eylea directly into the eye. All three of these drugs, two of which are off-shoots of colorectal cancer treatment drugs, are designed to inhibit the growth of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). An overabundance of VEGF proteins in the eye area are thought to contribute to abnormal blood vessel growth in the retina, one of the factors contributing to macular degeneration. Because the injections were so unpleasant for her and they weren’t improving the condition, Fabi decided to discontinue them months ago. At the time, she simply resolved to live with the condition, and possibly the loss of her eyesight, as best she could.

That day, her doctor took the usual round of photos of her eyes to see how the condition was progressing. She began with the “wet” right eye, which before that day had been classified as being “Intermediate MD,” meaning some loss of vision and symptoms of MD were clearly present. Her doctor couldn’t believe what she saw.

“The eye doctor treating me for macular degeneration couldn’t believe the photo of the macular,” Fabi said in a recent Facebook post about the visit. “The leaking in the blood vessel that causes lesions, bumps, swelling, etc. (which causes the loss of vision) was mostly gone.”

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According to Fabi, her doctor commented: “This can’t be! You haven’t been getting injections so how did the swelling go down?”

Fabi wrote (and confirmed later in a brief interview with UPG), that the only thing she had changed over the course of the three weeks prior to her doctor’s appointment was the introduction of taking CBD oil sublingually (under the tongue). Fabi says that her right eye has gone down from an “Intermediate MD” to an “Early Stage MD” diagnosis. She is now excited to keep up with her CBD oil protocol, which she is confident will clear up the right eye even more and begin to work its magic on the left as time goes on.

“I’m estatic!” says Fabi.

Do Cannabiniods Help Macular Degeneration?

Was it the CBD oil that caused the macular degeneration in Fabi’s right eye to reduce so dramatically in such a short time? Since no studies have been done on cannabinoid therapy and MD directly, scientifically, no one can say for sure. However, there are some interesting correlations between certain characteristics of the healing power of cannabis and the particular mechanisms of macular degeneration:

  • There are cannabinoid receptors in the eye area. In a ground-breaking Finnish study on glaucoma conducted in 2002 and published in the journal Pharmacology & Therapeutics, researcher Tomi Järvinena and his team discovered that the eye area has cannabinoid receptors, making this intricately complicated area of the body also a part of the all-encompassing endocannabiniod system (which helps to balance and regulate all other body systems). In the study, smoking cannabis directly was found to lower intraocular pressure in glaucoma patients, but “the discovery of ocular cannabinoid receptors implied an explanation for the induction of hypotension by topical cannabinoid applications.”
  • Cannabis is an anti-inflammatory. The fact that cannabis is an anti-inflammatory is nothing new. But cannabidiol has also been shown to be an anti-inflammatory specifically for the retina area, especially when that inflammation is associated with endotoxin exposure and diabetes. Believe it or not, there is a direct correlation between all three of these conditions. Diabetes and macular degeneration often go hand in hand (specifically because of low glutathione levels). Exposure to bacterial endotoxins, on the other hand, can often be an initial cause of MD. And all three of these conditions are instigated by the inflammatory response, which, of course, CBD has proven to be able to mitigate quite effectively.
  • Cannibinoids have been shown to inhibit VEGF growth. The whole point of administering the grueling injection of drugs directly into the eye for MD patients is because, supposedly, these drugs have the ability to stop the progression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). But cannabis has also been shown to do the same thing, with little to no harsh side effects. A 2004 mouse model study of gliomas (brain tumors) conducted by researchers at Comlutense University in Madrid, Spain found that cannabinoids inhibited VEGF pathways, thus slowing tumor growth in the mice. The same effect was also seen in two glioma patients as well.

“Because blockade of the VEGF pathway constitutes one of the most promising anti-tumoral approaches currently available, the present findings provide a novel pharmacological target for cannabinoid-based therapies,” the final report, published in the journal Cancer Research, reported.

Science may someday prove cannabinoid therapy to be the safe, effective, go-to therapy for the millions of Americans affected with macular degeneration. In the meantime, for Fabi (and others like her), perhaps the only proof she needs is the kind she can see with her own two eyes.

Since 2011, John Malanca has been the “go to”, expert and trusted professional in education and information in medical cannabis and the health/wellness sectors. His extensive knowledge of cannabis, the endocannabinoid system, patient needs, and disease care, combined with his upbeat and genuine concern for his audience makes him a favorite among industry hosts.

CBD & the Eyes: Research & Can It Help You?

NVISION® content is medically reviewed by a licensed Ophthalmologist, Optometrist, Surgeon or Doctor. These vision experts ensure the content is fact-based and up-to-date.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and every page contains a full list of references for transparency.

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CBD has become a touted treatment for various issues, including glaucoma. This is based on older medical studies and anecdotal reports that CBD oil, eye drops, and other forms of medical marijuana help to ease anxiety, eye strain, and eye pressure.

One of the first studies on medical marijuana for eye conditions involved glaucoma. This is a group of serious eye disorders associated with damage to the optic nerve, usually due to high fluid pressure in the eye, or intraocular pressure (IOP). This pressure must be lowered to prevent blindness. Further studies of medical marijuana have found that the drug does not actually lower pressure for long enough.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved CBD for some very limited medical uses, and several states have legalized both medical and recreational use of marijuana, both THC and CBD.

Dispensaries recommend CBD for eye treatment, especially glaucoma. Medical research has found that medical marijuana does not lower eye pressure for more than three or four hours, which is not long enough to prevent damage to the optic nerve. Paradoxically, it may increase the risk of damage due to fluctuations in eye pressure over the course of the day.

In fact, a recent medical study found that THC, not CBD, lowered eye pressure. By itself, CBD raises IOP, and in combination with THC, it can prevent THC from lowering IOP. THC is the intoxicating, recreational chemical in marijuana, which can be addictive and cause problems with thinking or memory.

It is important for you to follow medical advice from your optometrist and ophthalmologist to manage all eye conditions, from dry eyes to glaucoma. Don’t attempt to self-treat any eye issue with CBD.

Table of Contents

Cannabidiol (CBD) & Your Eyes: High Intraocular Pressure Is Dangerous

Glaucoma is a group of related eye conditions involving damage to the retina and optic nerve that leads to vision loss, typically due to high fluid pressure inside the eyes. Symptoms tend to start slowly until enough of the optic nerve is damaged that the person develops tunnel vision or another form of lost vision. Regular eye exams can help to diagnose glaucoma or high ocular pressure, so an optometrist or ophthalmologist can monitor this progression and ensure you receive appropriate treatment if you begin to lose your sight.

Treating glaucoma starts with medicated eye drops that are designed to lower intraocular pressure. If these do not work, there are several approaches to surgery that can lower fluid pressure in the eyes and prevent vision loss.

There are side effects to all these options, so many people with glaucoma, or who are at risk for glaucoma, want to find alternatives. One proposed alternative is CBD oil, or the cannabidiol molecule derived from medical marijuana.

Using Medical Marijuana Like CBD for Your Eyes Does Not Work

As marijuana has become more popular and many states have legalized both medical and recreational uses for this drug, CBD oil is being promoted for a range of uses, including as a glaucoma treatment.

There are very few medical studies on the effectiveness of CBD or medical marijuana, although the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has information on potentially beneficial uses for this approach to treatment. They have approved one CBD-based drug for two types of severe, rare epilepsy. Some forms of medical marijuana have been examined to treat eye conditions, especially glaucoma, but newer research suggests that CBD is not an effective treatment for your eyes.

Medical marijuana has been touted to generally ease physical and emotional pain, including nausea related to cancer treatment, chronic pain, general anxiety disorder, and other conditions. In the 1970s and 1980s, medical marijuana was studied as an eye treatment, particularly for serious conditions like cataracts and glaucoma, which can lead to blindness. The research found that marijuana could lower intraocular pressure for three or four hours at a time, and it was more effective at lowering pressure in the eyes than glaucoma drops.

However, the studies also found that these pressure-lowering effects would wear off after a certain amount of time, while the effects of glaucoma eye drop treatment lasted at least 12 hours. It is vital for eye health that treatment to manage intraocular pressure lasts for a long time and is consistent. When eye pressure rises and lowers several times throughout the day, damage to the optic nerve can get worse.

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Medical Studies on CBD & the Eyes Suggests CBD Is a Dangerous Chemical

CBD in particular is receiving a lot of attention from the medical community and medical marijuana proponents. However, studies suggest that the CBD compound may make intraocular pressure higher, while THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the chemical in marijuana associated with substance abuse and getting high, is responsible for lowering eye pressure.

A study conducted in 2018 found that THC and CBD regulate eye pressure differently. When they are separated from marijuana, they will have radically different effects.

The results of the 2018 study found that a single dose of THC drops lowered IOP by 28 percent for 8 hours in male mice, although humans with glaucoma need 24-hour pressure relief to reduce damage to the optic nerve. The study also found two interesting problems. First, CBD inhibited THC from lowering IOP. Second, the effects of THC on eye pressure were sex-dependent, with male mice receiving noticeably greater benefit from the treatment.

  • Accelerated heartbeat, which can trigger anxiety or feel like anxiety.
  • Decreased blood pressure overall, which can be harmful to the cardiovascular system.
  • Reduced blood flow to several parts of the body, including the optic nerve, which can increase damage.
  • Increased risk of lung cancer specifically from smoking or vaping marijuana products.
  • Greater risk of addiction with any amount of marijuana treatment containing THC.
  • Drowsiness, memory loss, and cognitive issues associated with abusing marijuana.
  • Struggles to hold down a job or drive safely if drug-tested.

Most medical research suggests that CBD does not intoxicate you the same way THC does, but taking types of medical marijuana marketed as “high CBD” might mean there are traces of THC included in the substance. THC is addictive because it can change brain chemistry to make you feel relaxed, less anxious, sleepy, or even happy. The drug can also cause negative side effects like changes in mood, spikes in anxiety or paranoia, delusions, and trouble thinking or problem-solving.

Follow Your Eye Doctor’s Treatment Plan for Treating Eye Conditions

Some dispensaries hype CBD for the eyes aside from glaucoma treatment, suggesting that it can ease pain from surgery, reduce dry eye, and even alleviate eye strain. However, there are no medical studies to back up these claims. The changes to eye pressure due to CBD may lead to damage to your vision, even if you do not have glaucoma.

The only currently approved medical approach for glaucoma is regular eye exams to monitor the condition. Follow your eye doctor’s advice to manage this condition if you are diagnosed with it. This will likely mean eye drops first to prevent vision loss. It could also mean laser eye surgery, drainage devices, or other types of surgery to alleviate intraocular pressure and reduce damage to the optic nerve.

References

Glaucoma. (July 2020). National Eye Institute (NEI).

Cannabidiol (CBD) – What We Know and What We Don’t. (August 2018). Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.

Is There a Risk of Blindness With CBD? (2018). United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

CBD Oil May Worsen Glaucoma. (February 2019). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).

What Is Marijuana? (December 2019). National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

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