At an early age, most of us are taught that we have five senses, and vision is one of those. However, as of recently, some scientists believe that humans have anywhere from 14-20 senses. Overall, though, each of our senses are our main contact to the environment we live in. The most essential sense is our vision, especially because we perceive up to 80 percent of all impressions and occurrences through sight. Although our vision helps us in more ways than we might realize, there are several eye issues that can occur at any time like glaucoma, neurodegenerative blindness, and diabetic retinopathy. Despite how serious these eye diseases are, alternative forms of medicine, like cannabis, can help. Read on to learn about the medical impact cannabis has on our eyes and how this plant can help improve our vision.
Eye Diseases that Cannabis Can Help Treat
Cannabis is a powerful plant that can help treat various medical conditions including different eye diseases. Some of these diseases include glaucoma, neurodegenerative blindness, and diabetic retinopathy. Below is a breakdown of how cannabis can help treat these three eye diseases.
For those who don’t know, glaucoma is an eye disease that damages the optic nerve. Unfortunately, glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness on a worldwide scale. As far back as the 1970s, researchers have been examining the impact cannabis has on glaucoma. One experiment found that among sixteen human subjects, when cannabis was inhaled, intraocular pressure was reduced (IOP). This is significant because intraocular pressure contributes to both degeneration and pain associated with glaucoma.
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After cannabis usage, several of the subjects experienced relief for three-four hours post-consumption. Also, subjects who had glaucoma and high blood pressure experienced the longest lasting and most significant outcome. Then, research that was conducted in 1980 and 2000 confirmed these findings.
In addition, regarding neurodegenerative blindness, research findings from 2014 proposed that cannabis-based medicine could slow down degenerative blindness. The research that was conducted in 2014 focused on rats as test subjects, and they were administered a synthetic cannabinoid over a three-month-time span. Once the cannabinoid administration ended, it was found that the treated rats had 40 percent more photoreceptors than the non-treated subjects. This indicates that cannabis-like therapies and cannabis-based medicine could slow down the speed of ocular degeneration in neurodegenerative blindness.
Cannabis can help treat diabetic retinopathy, but this disease is different than other eye diseases. Diabetic retinopathy is a side effect of diabetes, which causes damage to the retina’s blood vessels. The retina is the light-sensitive part of our eyes, and in cases of diabetic retinopathy, the eyes’ nerve cells start dying, which significantly impacts the individuals’ eyesight.
Fortunately, though, a 2006 preclinical study discovered that Cannabidiol (CBD) could help protect diabetics’ eyes. Since CBD is a strong antioxidant, it’s believed that this cannabinoid can reduce some of the retina’s toxicity, which usually contributes to degeneration. Also, additional studies discovered that cannabis including Cannabidiol contains effective neuroprotective antioxidants, which could help treat different age-related conditions besides just bad vision.
The Role Our Endocannabinoid System (ECS) Plays in Eye Health
Moreover, it has been found that cannabis can affect every organ in the body, which includes the eyes. In general, preclinical investigations indicate that the ECS plays an essential role in our vision. Cannabis counterparts like cannabinoids can effectively tap into the body’s ECS, which is sometimes referred to as a cellular communication network. Then, different cannabinoids interact with the ECS through the engagement of a cannabinoid receptor. Thus far, it has been discovered that the eyes express high levels of the cannabinoid receptor known as CB1.
Additionally, the brain’s vision processing centers include an abundance of these receptor sites. Cannabinoid receptors are more powerful than one may think though, especially because researchers found that cannabinoid receptors can moderate the eye’s response to light. This finding was pulled from a 2016 primate study, which found that the manipulation of cannabinoid receptors alters the way electroretinographic waves pass through the eye’s retina.
However, the exact ways that cannabis impacts our eyesight requires additional investigation and examination. Regardless, the research findings that have been released thus far offer a significant reason to investigate cannabis and its cannabinoids for the treatment of different eye diseases.
Other Ways Cannabis Can Impact Our Vision
On another note, after consuming cannabis, the following can occur: red eyes, allergies, enhanced night vision, and visual processing. So far, it has been found that cannabis can lower one’s blood pressure. As a result, the eye’s capillaries and blood vessels dilate, which leads to red eyes. The wider the capillaries, the more blood flows into the eyes, which reduces intraocular pressure. Individuals with glaucoma and other painful ocular conditions could benefit from this though, especially because the eyes relax after cannabis usage.
Other experiences that can occur after consuming cannabis is an allergic eye reaction. This could be due to several factors including a triggered allergy to smoke, residual molds, or perhaps the cannabis strain itself. A few signs of allergies includes redness, inflammation, itchiness, tearing, and dryness.
Regarding night vision, according to laboratory research, cannabinoid receptors were found to help the eyes respond to light. The engagement of cannabinoid receptors is believed to enhance the eyes’ ability to see in low-light conditions. In the last three decades, various researchers reasoned that cannabis could improve night vision. Then, after a 2004 small scale-study was performed, a dose-dependent relationship between cannabis usage and improved night vision was found.
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Lastly, cannabis has an impact on visual processing, especially due to recent evidence that proposes that the ECS adds to visual development within our brain. Specifically, one 2015 study discovered that babies who were subjected to cannabis in utero tested much higher in visual processing exams. Also, babies who were exposed to cannabis were found to possess improved global motion perception. This finding isn’t meant to promote cannabis usage during pregnancy. But rather, this finding goes to show that cannabinoids and the body’s ECS can help our eyes and brain make better sense of visual information.
Overall, aside from cannabis’s ability to help treat different eye diseases, this powerful plant can also improve our night vision and visual processing. Although cannabis cannot cure eye diseases, it can help provide significant relief and improve one’s quality of life. Rather than taking your eyes for granted, appreciate the vision you have, and remember that cannabis is there to help in a natural and effective way.