Will Marijuana Use Affect My Vision and Eye Health? By Gordon Wong, OD on June 13, 2023

A photo of marijuanaIt’s not uncommon to notice changes in the appearance of your eyes when using marijuana. The most common change is the appearance of redness on the white part of the eye, caused by dilation of the eye’s blood vessels. However, this is a temporary side effect that goes away within hours.

In this blog post, we’ll explore how cannabis affects vision, if it can help or hurt existing eye conditions, and if there are long-term vision consequences to taking the drug. At GW Eye Associates, we help patients at our Del Mar and La Jolla, CA, eye care offices explore what’s affecting their vision and find a solution to better sight.

Marijuana and Glaucoma

Marijuana has been found to reduce intraocular pressure (IOP) in the eye. Since high IOP is associated with glaucoma, many researchers and patients with glaucoma have wondered about the positive effects of marijuana when it comes to slowing the progression of glaucoma. However, while marijuana can reduce IOP, it does so for only a few hours at a time.

Glaucoma patients would need to use marijuana multiple times throughout the day to continuously reap the benefits of reduced IOP. With the existence of medical eyedrops that decrease eye pressure without any neurological side effects, patients can achieve decreased IOP in a safer and more controlled fashion than using marijuana frequently throughout the day. Because of the limited, short-term benefits that come with marijuana for reducing IOP, the American Academy of Ophthalmology doesn’t recommend it as a viable treatment option.

Marijuana and Macular Degeneration

There are conflicting studies about whether marijuana use’s effects on developing and treating macular degeneration. One study found that using marijuana over 100 times lowered the risk of age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). However, of the patients who developed AMD and frequently used marijuana, the onset of symptoms came sooner than subjects of the study who never used marijuana.

This gives us inconclusive evidence as to whether AMD is made worse or better by marijuana use. The optometrists at GW Eye Associates recommend that Del Mar and La Jolla patients use medically-advised methods to treat AMD, rather than relying on drugs like marijuana that have inconclusive benefits.

The Long-Term Effects of Marijuana

The long-term effects of marijuana use on vision is lacking. Much of the research is inconclusive and contradictory. For instance, some studies have found that smoking cannabis can lead to a significant decline in static visual acuity. However, these results were found to be inconclusive and not representative of long-term effects. Similarly, studies have shown altered contrast sensitivity in cannabis users. However, this is considering when the person is on marijuana, rather than when they are sober in the future.

Turn to an Eye Doctor for All Your Questions

We have to wait for further studies on the effects of marijuana on vision to form a conclusion as to whether it harms or helps your long-term eye health. However, overwhelmingly, medical professionals and organizations recommend medication targeted to treat eye conditions over the recreational or medical use of marijuana. It’s best to turn to a trusted source, like our optometrists at GW Eye Associates to get a well-rounded and personalized answer to questions like these. Contact our Del Mar or La Jolla eye care offices to get answers and guided advice to all your pressing eye care concerns.

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Our team at GW Eye Associates in La Jolla and Del Mar can provide a wide range of high-quality eye care services. Dr. Gordon G. Wong and Dr. Wildon C. Wong have over 45 years of combined experience and belong to several prestigious organizations, including:

  • American Academy of Ophthalmology
  • American Optometric Association
  • NVISION

For more information about our services, contact our office online or call us at (858) 454-4699 today.

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