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CBD Oil and Your Eyes: What You Need to Know

Can CBD oil help support eye health? Research points to “yes.” Image Credit: By Nneirda on shutterstock.

The average person uses a surprisingly large number of products on their head every day. From teeth to hair to skin, each part has specific needs — and, increasingly, a CBD-infused product to get the job done. There’s cannabis toothpaste and antibacterial mouthwash for one’s oral hygiene needs, wrinkle creams and sheet masks for enhancing the complexion, and shampoos and hair oil treatments for all manner of hair types. The final frontier, it seems, is the eyes, and now there are CBD products for those, too.

As you might expect, CBD-infused eye drops are the most commonly used products for eye-related issues. While they bear a superficial similarity to the vials of CBD oil used for cooking or sublingual tinctures, the two products can’t be used interchangeably — while CBD eye drops have been specially formulated for ocular use, “normal CBD oil” contains ingredients that can severely irritate the delicate tissue of the eyes.

CBD eye drops can be used for cosmetic reasons, or to treat medical conditions. They have a number of characteristics that make them adept for both purposes, but they also come with a few strings attached. Here’s what you need to know to determine if they’re right for you.

Using CBD Oil for Your Eyes

One of the most common side effects of cannabis is eye redness, so it’s somewhat ironic that a cannabis derivative like CBD oil can now be used to manage it. Bloodshot eyes are caused by tiny blood vessels that become dilated, and since cannabidiol (CBD) has the ability to increase blood pressure, it can constrict these blood vessels and reduce redness.

However, since the doses are so small, it’s highly unlikely that CBD eye drops will have the type of anti-anxiety effects that are typically associated with other products containing the cannabinoid. At the moment, there have been no clinical studies comparing the effectiveness of CBD with other key ingredients typically found in eye-whitening drops, such as brimonidine. While it’s possible that CBD eye drops may one day replace popular products like Visine, it’s not yet clear if they have any real advantages.

One area where CBD eye drops have shown promise is in the treatment of corneal pain and inflammation. According to a study published by Canadian researchers, the drops were effective in triggering cannabinoid receptors that reduced eye irritation and pain. Natural, plant-derived CBD was found to be much more effective than synthetically produced alternatives.

At the same time, CBD eye drops have been shown to be far less effective when treating another common eye condition: glaucoma. Although cannabis has been used to treat glaucoma for years, the reason for its effectiveness is due to THC, not CBD. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, this is because glaucoma is caused by elevated rates of intraocular pressure, which puts stress on the optic nerves. While THC lowers the amount of eye pressure, CBD has the opposite effect — meaning it can actually make glaucoma worse.

No matter what their purpose, CBD eye drops are still a work in progress. Since the oil itself doesn’t mix easily with water (the preferred delivery mechanism for most current eye drops), it’s difficult for them to deliver the key ingredient in sufficient amounts — some estimates suggest that as little as five percent of CBD reaches its intended target. Possible solutions include using mineral oil in place of water, but studies show this can irritate the eyes, and non-irritating formulations are still a theoretical concept at this point.

Still, considering the massive amount of research (and money) currently being poured into the CBD industry, it’s not hard to imagine a future in which it’s tougher to find eye drops without CBD than with it.

People are using CBD oil eye drops for a lot of reasons — with mixed results. Do you know the facts?

CBD Effects on Eyes

Posted on August 19th, 2020

Think about your average day: you probably put a lot of products into or on your body. Some products may seem harmless, but some may have an adverse effect on your body–if not immediately, then gradually, over the years. As we become increasingly conscious of this fact, we also see customers looking for natural products with fewer side effects. And, in this environment, CBD has emerged as a natural product that can address a wide variety of conditions without triggering significant side effects. What is o ne group of people exploring CBD and its possible applications? Individuals who suffer from eye problems such as poor eyesight. Interested in learning more? In this piece, we’ll look at the possible effects of CBD on your eyes. We’ll especially explore the potential of CBD eye treatments, so read on!

What Is CBD?

For years, using the cannabis plant or any of its products was illegal in the United States. Then came the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized the use of CBD products, so long as they were derived from industrial hemp plants and contained less than 0.3% THC.

CBD, also known as cannabidiol, is mostly touted for its potential health benefits such as alleviating symptoms of anxiety and pain, among others.

The cannabis plant has two main active components: cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC); these are just two of hundreds of compounds, known as cannabinoids, contained within the plants. Both compounds produce various benefits, but THC produces mind-altering effects, while CBD doesn’t. Hemp varieties of cannabis plants contain high concentrations of CBD and low concentrations of THC, whereas marijuana plants are the opposite.

Both these cannabinoids interact with a crucial system in your body called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a regulatory system that regulates a host of bodily functions and helps maintain internal balance (homeostasis). Your body creates its own cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids, that strive to restore balance when you’re stressed, depressed, anxious, or feeling pain. Adding external cannabinoids, like CBD, may help expedite this process by supplementing endocannabinoids and boosting their function to restore balance quickly. Now that we have a better understanding of CBD, let’s explore its effects on the eyes.

What Are the Effects of CBD on Eyes?

By 2050, experts predict that the number of people affected by age-related macular degeneration in the United States will increase to more than five million people . For cataracts, that number is expected to hit six million by 2050 . Glaucoma is an example of age-related macular degeneration and can be quite severe when it progresses. So, can CBD be used to help manage symptoms of Glaucoma and other eye problems?

You may be concerned about using CBD if you have eye problems since eye redness is one of the side effects of high-THC products. But here’s the story: you usually develop bloodshot eyes when small blood vessels become dilated. And, since CBD may help decrease blood pressure, it actually tends to constrict blood vessels, reducing redness.

But wait, there’s more: CBD eye drops have shown progress in the treatment of corneal pain and inflammation. The drops appear to trigger the ECS receptors that reduce the pain and eye irritation. Therefore, with more time and testing, CBD eye drops may prove to be an effective treatment for eye inflammation.

CBD’s Anti-inflammatory Properties

CBD also appears to have anti-inflammatory properties. This is beneficial, especially for your eye’s retina, which can become inflamed if you have diabetes or endotoxin pressure. There is a massive correlation between these conditions. When you have low glutathione levels, you can develop both diabetes and macular degeneration. In early studies, CBD has been found to mitigate both these conditions.

CBD and Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor

CBD also appears to inhibit VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor), a substance that encourages new blood vessel growth that can also lead to tumor development. Many people get regular drug injections in their eyes to suppress VEGF, but early research suggests that a CBD supplement could provide the same function. In fact, a study at Complutense University in Spain found that cannabinoids inhibit VGEF pathways, also slowing tumor growth in mice. Similar effects were also seen in glioma patients.

What Is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is an eye disease that results in fluid pressure elevations in your eye. If not treated promptly, glaucoma can lead to loss of vision and even permanent blindness. It can occur at any age, but it is more common with older people.

According to the Glaucoma Foundation, around three million people in America currently suffer from glaucoma. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the US and, until recently, people believed that CBD could be used to treat Glaucoma. However, in recent years, eye doctors began warning against this possibility. Why is this so?

CBD Oil Concerns With Glaucoma

According to new research, CBD raises your eye pressure. This is a cause for concern since glaucoma impacts your eyesight because of high-pressure levels. The high pressure from the optic nerve causes damage to the nerve. And since its job is to transmit visual information to the brain, this damage leads to permanent vision loss.

While anyone can develop this eye condition, certain factors increase your risk. These include:

  • Eye injuries
  • Eye surgery
  • Old age
  • Illnesses such as hypothyroidism.
  • Ethnic background. For example, Hispanics, East Asians, and African-Americans are at a higher risk for glaucoma than Caucasians.

There are several forms of glaucoma, including:

Open-Angle Glaucoma

This is commonly known as the “sneak thief of the night,” since it does not show any significant symptoms until vision loss has occurred. It is the most common type of glaucoma, and it develops because your eye’s drainage canals get clogged with time, increasing pressure, which is referred to as IOP. IOP, or intraocular pressure, increases as the fluid fails to properly drain out of the eye.

Angle-Closure Glaucoma

Also known as acute or narrow-angle glaucoma, this sporadic condition occurs when your intraocular pressure rises rapidly without warning. Hence, your drainage canals get blocked and your iris appears less wide than in a person with a healthy eye. Symptoms include headaches, eye pain, blurred vision, and nausea.

Other types of glaucoma include:

  • Traumatic Glaucoma
  • Congenital Glaucoma
  • Secondary Glaucoma
  • Normal-tension Glaucoma
  • Pigmentary Glaucoma
  • Neovascular Glaucoma
  • Iridocorneal Endothelial Syndrome(ICE)

CBD Oil for Glaucoma

As we mentioned earlier, the latest research regarding CBD oil as a treatment for glaucoma is not promising. CBD appears to increase eye pressure–according to a rat study in Indiana, CBD actually raised eye pressure by 18% for at least four hours after drops were administered. In contrast, when testing THC eye drops, researchers noted that eye pressure decreased by up to 30% within eight hours of the dose.

While this research eliminates CBD as a glaucoma treatment, it does establish THC and, by extension, marijuana, as a potentially effective option. Just remember, THC is psychoactive and can give you a high, so many people may prefer to avoid this treatment option.

Benefits of Using CBD Oil

Even though CBD oil won’t alleviate glaucoma symptoms, you can enjoy its other benefits. Many users who suffer from symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, and pain find that CBD offers analgesic and anti-nausea properties, so it provides them with relief.

Also, in certain cases, studies show CBD lowering intraocular pressure in the eye, although more research is necessary given the conflicting findings.

As research progresses, however, we may find that CBD can lower your IOP and help protect the retinal cells. CBD may also help alleviate fear and anxiety before or after eye surgery. At this time, however, CBD eye drops are still a work in progress. Do not attempt to switch or replace your prescribed eye medications without talking to your doctor.

What is one group of people exploring CBD and its possible applications? Individuals who suffer from eye problems. So what are the effects of CBD on eyes?