Glaucoma is a common eye condition that often causes optical nerve damage, and when left untreated, can lead to blindness. In the U.S., more than three million Americans live with glaucoma. Globally, the figure is close to 60 million. Glaucoma is recognized as one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness.
Since 1980, surgical procedures and treatments have improved significantly, cutting the risk of developing blindness nearly in half. Nonetheless, while treatment has improved, the number of effective topical drugs remains limited. Recognized near universally in medical marijuana states as a qualifying condition, increasing numbers of people have turned to cannabis to treat their condition. But should they?
Given the improvement of existing glaucoma treatments, do the benefits of medical cannabis outweigh the potential side effects or risks? Likewise, given the vital role the body’s endocannabinoid system plays in disease, what promise does the future hold for developing cannabinoid-derived medications to treat cannabis?
What Causes Glaucoma?
Evidence increasingly suggests glaucoma (now widely considered to be a neurodegenerative condition), has a connection to other neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have shown one out of four Alzheimer’s patients also likely has a diagnosis of glaucoma. In fact, glaucoma appears to be a significant predictor of AD. A precise cause of glaucoma, however, remains a mystery and continues to elude the scientific community.