Snoop Doc and Dr. Dre, OD - Marijuana and Glaucoma

DISCLAIMER: Marijuana laws are a little more lenient now than they were when this blog was originally written... Maybe a little more than a little more lenient, considering there's a medical marijuana "clinic" on every other block in Vancouver these days. Nonetheless, I decided to leave the blog in its original form out of respect for my past self's efforts... or because I'm lazy. Enjoy.

"Got some bubba, give me that. I need it for my cataracts." - Snoop Dogg in "Kush" by Dr. Dre.

While I applaud Mr. Snoop D-O-double-G for his awareness of ocular disease and the potential for using marijuana as treatment, there are some things that we need to straighten out.

Firstly, yes, marijuana can be prescribed for certain medical conditions. BUT! It's use is very limited and strictly regulated. In the medical field, its uses are mostly limited to patients who are being treated for cancer, severe pain, or terminal illnesses. In cancer patients it is used as an anti-emetic (decrease vomiting) and to increase appetite during chemotherapy.

A couple of weeks ago, I received a text from an old friend... "Are there any diseases of the eye that marijuana can be legally prescribed for?" Yes, old friend, yes there are. But, unfortunately, nothing I can help you with :)

The only eye disease that marijuana could be helpful for is glaucoma (not cataracts, Snoop!). Glaucoma is a disease in which the optic nerve (in the back of the eye) is damaged and can result in loss of peripheral vision (and blindness, in severe cases). It usually only presents in older patients, age 55 and up. High intra-ocular pressure is thought to be one of the main causes of damage to the nerve. This is why we do the "air puff" pressure test at every routine eye exam (See the blog "The Dreaded Air Puff Test".

Marijuana can reduce the intra-ocular pressure a little. But in order for it to be effective, a patient would need to smoke very frequently, as much as every 3 hours. While some people may consider that cutting back compared to their daily norm, its not exactly what I would call effective dosing. Especially when one little eye drop once a day can be twice as effective as smoking 4 joints a day. I'm just sayin!


Lil' Wayne and cataracts

"You can't see me baby boy, you got them cataracts" - Lil' Wayne in Best Rapper Alive

Who said rap music is bad for you? I think its educational! Lil' Wayne may not know exactly what a cataract is, but he definitely has the right idea.

A cataract is the clouding of the lens that is inside the eye. As the lens becomes more clouded, vision becomes blurred due to light being blocked or scattered. This is the same lens that we use to focus at near objects. The same lens that stops working around the age of 45 and forces people to start wearing reading glasses (See: presbyopia in the "All Kinds of Blurry" post).

Everyone will develop cataracts at some point in their lives if they live long enough. How much and how fast depends on the individual and the environment. Medical conditions like diabetes can cause cataracts to develop faster. Sunlight is the main environmental factor. So, grab those sunglasses!

Congenital cataracts - It is possible to be born with a cataract. I recently saw a 5 year old boy who had a cataract in one eye. Another reason why kids should have regular eye exams.

Traumatic cataracts - Getting hit in the eye can cause a cataract. Wear protective lenses whenever possible!

How do you treat cataracts?

The only treatment is removal. The cloudy lens is removed and new clear plastic lens is inserted in its place. The surgery takes about 10-15 minutes per eye and requires an incision less than half a millimeter in size!

Who knows, maybe next week Kanye West will rap about Macular Degeneration... Stay posted!


"I spent a G on these frames, but my vision is priceless" - Lil' Wayne