Medical Marijuana and Conjunctivitis
Many people suffering from inflammation are beginning to turn to alternative treatments like medical cannabis for relief. In fact, recent studies now link the herb to reducing pain and inflammation because of its cannabinoid components: CBDand THC. Medical marijuana for conjunctivitis may be a beneficial remedy for you, since the two main symptoms of the condition are pain and inflammation.
What Is Conjunctivitis?
Conjunctivitis, also called pink eye, is inflammation of your conjunctiva (inside of your eyelids) and the clear, thin top cover of the white (sclera) of your eyes. Despite being transparent, your conjunctiva has blood vessels covering your eye sclera.
Inflammation causes dilation of your conjunctival blood vessels. This leads to bloodshot, reddened eyes. While there are a few causes of conjunctivitis, physicians use the word “pink eye” mainly in cases of viral conjunctivitis.
Types of Conjunctivitis
The primary forms of conjunctivitis, depending on the cause, include:
- Bacterial conjunctivitis: Bacteria cause this type of conjunctivitis. If left untreated, it can cause severe damage to your eye.
- Viral conjunctivitis: A virus causes this type. An example would be the common cold. Viral conjunctivitis is extremely contagious, but tends to clear up by itself without medical treatment in a few days.
- Allergic conjunctivitis: Dust, pollen, animal dander and other eye irritants cause this type of conjunctivitis. It can affect you year-round or may be seasonal.
- Non-infectious conjunctivitis: Eye irritations like perfumes, smoke, certain chemicals or diesel exhaust can cause pink eye symptoms. You may also get this type by ingesting certain substances such as herbs like turmeric or eyebright.
- Gonococcal and chlamydial conjunctivitis: These are bacterial types related to sexually transmitted disease infections like chlamydia and gonorrhea. If a mother is infected, she may expose her newborn baby when it passes through her birth canal. Scarring on the surface of your eye can occur through the chlamydial infection Trachoma, which can lead to preventable blindness.
- Giant papillary conjunctivitis (GPC): This type typically affects both your eyes. You’re more susceptible to this type if you wear soft contact lenses. GPC can cause intolerance to contact lenses, red bumps and tearing underneath your eyelids, itching and a heavy discharge.
- Neonatal conjunctivitis: Typically affecting newborns, neonatal conjunctivitis when left untreated can cause blindness.
History of Conjunctivitis
Since it’s among the most active areas of allergic inflammation due to not having a fixed barrier to protect against pollen or other allergens on its surface, the eyes have become the focus of extreme pharmacologic development.
There’s been astounding advances and growth in therapeutic medicine over the past 20 years. These range from aspirin byproducts to numerous biological immunomodulatory developments using implantable drug delivery devices exceeding the effectiveness and safety of the different organ systems. Doctors are also utilizing advanced surgical techniques to correct disease-related, sight-threatening complications.
Above all, doctors are now able to manage ocular inflammation better due to the increasing knowledge base. The clinical immunologist or allergist plays a significant role in the prognosis of patients with ocular surface anterior inflammatory disorders — particularly allergic conjunctivitis.
Symptoms of Conjunctivitis
Common symptoms of conjunctivitis include:
- Itching and redness in one or both of your eyes
- Eye tearing
- A gritty sensation in one or both of your eyes
- A crusty discharge in one or both of your eyes forming during the night and which may prevent you from being able to open your eye or eyes the next morning
While pink eye is typically the cause of eye redness, other severe eye ailments can cause this redness as well as eye pain, light sensitivity or blurred vision. If you notice any of these symptoms and suspect conjunctivitis, have your doctor take a look at it. As mentioned, this condition can be extremely contagious for as long as a couple of weeks after you’ve begun symptoms. Receiving an early diagnosis and treatment can also help protect those around you from getting the condition.
Effects of Conjunctivitis
Conjunctivitis can cause inflammation in both adults and children in the cornea and may impact vision. To reduce your risk of further complications, be sure to have your doctor exam you right away and prescribe you treatment.
Conjunctivitis complications will depend on if your pink eye is allergy-related (allergic conjunctivitis) or an infection (infective conjunctivitis).
If chlamydia or another sexually transmitted infection is causing your conjunctivitis, the infection can last a few months instead of a couple of weeks. Any bacteria causing infective conjunctivitis can lead to numerous complications, especially in premature newborns. Other potential complications may include:
- Cellulitis: A deep tissue and skin layer infection causing your skin surface to become inflamed and sore. Doctors typically prescribe antibiotics to treat cellulitis.
- Meningitis: The protective cell layers around your spinal cord and brain (meninges) become infected.
- Otitis media: A temporary ear infection affecting approximately one in four children with hemophilus influenza bacteria-related infective conjunctivitis.
- Septicemia: Also referred to as blood poisoning, this complication is the result of bacteria getting into your bloodstream and attacking the tissues of your body.
It’s rare for anyone to experience severe complications with allergic conjunctivitis, but you may find it frustrating to continue having recurring symptoms. For instance, if pollen is causing your conjunctivitis, it can keep you from going outside in the summer or spring months, since it can trigger symptoms.
Allergic conjunctivitis can make it hard to concentrate at school or work — especially if you’re dealing with seriously irritated eyes. It can affect daily living, too. While allergic conjunctivitis doesn’t normally result in any long-term health issues, it can affect your quality of life.
Punctate Epithelial Keratitis
Different forms of conjunctivitis may bring on keratitis. This is where the front of your eye (cornea) becomes inflamed, painful and causes photophobia (eye sensitivity to light). You may form ulcers on your cornea, which can cause scarring and even lead to permanent vision damage.
Individuals with anxiety and stress often get conjunctivitis — particularly females between the ages of 50 through 59 years old with depression and taking Xanax. Conjunctivitis tends to affect more than 83 percent of women and 16 percent of men.
The National Institutes of Health Reports:
- Around six million Americans get acute conjunctivitis each year.
- Conjunctivitis leads to around one percent of all U.S. primary care doctor visits.
- Around 70 percent of all acute conjunctivitis patients seek urgent care and primary care.
Current Treatments Available for Conjunctivitis and Their Side Effects
There are three primary goals of treating pink eye. These are:
- Increase the comfort of the patients.
- Reduce the inflammation or infection.
- Prevent the contagious types of conjunctivitis infection from spreading.
The treatment you receive will depend on what’s causing your conjunctivitis.
The doctor typically treats bacterial conjunctivitis with antibiotic eye ointments or drops. You should notice some improvement after three to four days of treatment. However, you need to take the whole course of antibiotics regardless of this improvement or you could have a recurrence.
Your first step, if possible, is to avoid or remove the irritant. Artificial tears and cool compresses may relieve your discomfort if you have a mild case of allergic conjunctivitis. If you have a severe case, your doctor may prescribe you antihistamines or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines. If your allergic conjunctivitis is persistent, you may need topical steroid eye drops as well.
Standard treatment for this type of conjunctivitis is flushing your eyes out carefully with saline. You may also need topical steroids with chemical conjunctivitis. If your chemical injury is severe, such as with alkali burns, you will need immediate medical care, since it can lead to:
- Eye or sight damage
- Loss of your eye
If you spill a chemical in your eye, immediately flush your eye out for a few minutes with water before you seek medical attention.
Ointments or drops can’t treat this type of conjunctivitis and antibiotics won’t cure it. Since viral conjunctivitis is a virus (like a cold), it will need to simply run its course, taking anywhere from two to three weeks. You may use artificial tear drops or cool compresses to relieve the symptoms. Your doctor may prescribe topical steroid drops, if your case is severe, to help reduce inflammation-related discomfort. Note that these drops are only meant to soothe the symptoms — not shorten the infection.
How/Why Marijuana Can Be an Effective Treatment for Conjunctivitis
Medical cannabis reduces inflammation in your skin and digestive system. It also helps reduce conjunctivitis-related eyelid lining swelling.
Research shows medical cannabis may be a worthwhile treatment for conjunctivitis since pain is its worst symptom and cannabis is also a pain reliever. With conjunctivitis, even if you’re not touching your eyes, you could still experience pain in them.
Cannabinoids work as powerful anti-inflammatory agents, exerting their effects through inhibition of cell proliferation, induction of apoptosis, induction of T-regulatory cells and suppression of cytokine production. The main mechanism of cannabinoid immunosuppression is immune cell population apoptosis or induction of cell death.
What Side Effects and Symptoms of Conjunctivitis Can Medical Marijuana Treat?
Conjunctivitis can be unbearable due to the constant itch and discomfort. Your experience can get even worse because of the pain, itching, inflammation and the inability to properly open your eyes, causing obstructed vision.
Medical cannabis for conjunctivitis provides palliative care because it relieves pain and reduces inflammation, mitigating the course of the condition and speeding up your recovery. The side effects treatable with marijuana for conjunctivitis include:
The cause of conjunctivitis will dictate what treatment a doctor prescribes. Viruses have no cure, but anti-bacterial drops and antibiotics can fight other types of infection. Medical marijuana can provide palliative care by reducing inflammation and relieving pain.
However, marijuana, in its purest forms, causes eyes to become bloodshot and irritated. Therefore, it can increase those symptoms in many cases of conjunctivitis. It may be necessary to discuss how to ingest medical marijuana so you avoid this side effect. Other types of marijuana are less irritating to the eye. Doctors who prescribe this medication should be able to provide advice on these subjects.
Medical Marijuana and Conjunctivitis Pain
One of the most irritating and noticeable symptoms of conjunctivitis is pain. The affected eye becomes tender to the touch and may ache, even when no pressure is applied. Medical marijuana can help with this. It has properties to reduce sensitivity to pain. This pain relief is not powerful enough to substitute for opiate pain relievers in severe cases of pain.
However, it can relieve the mild to moderate pain associated with conjunctivitis. Animal trials have conclusively shown cannabinoids can alleviate pain. This includes pain due to inflammation, which is what occurs in cases of conjunctivitis. These animal trials show pain due to inflammation is alleviated by cannabinoids because inflammation was the cause of pain in some of the test animals. They exhibited behavior associated with relief from their pain.
Human trials have shown the same results as animal trials. Studies by the University of California, San Francisco, showed a drastic reduction in pain relieving doses of opiates in patients who were taking their medication with medical marijuana. Other studies have shown a moderate dose of marijuana can relieve pain, but the dose has to be right, as too much smoked marijuana seemed to increase pain. Medical marijuana is not the only pain reliever known to do that.
Medical Marijuana and Inflammation Related to Conjunctivitis
The cause of the discomfort associated with conjunctivitis is the swelling of the eyelid lining. This can be combated by anti-inflammatory medication. Research into medical marijuana and digestive disorders has shown medical marijuana can alleviate inflammation in the digestive system. It also reduces inflammation of the skin, according to anecdotal evidence.
These anti-inflammatory properties appear to be able to work without the use of endocannabinoid receptors, which are the main system in which medical marijuana works. It appears the pain-relieving properties of medical marijuana may be able to do this also. If so, they could relieve pain and inflammation in areas of the body that do not contain endocannabinoid receptors.
Medical Marijuana and Conjunctivitis Itching
One study reportedly showed medical marijuana can relieve itching. Twenty-five hundred people with itching were given medical marijuana to relieve itching caused by eczema. It eliminated eczema within three weeks for more than 38 percent of those individuals. More importantly for those suffering from conjunctivitis, it was able to relieve itching in those individuals and provide some relief for roughly half of the individuals who participated.
Best Strains of Marijuana to Use for Conjunctivitis Symptoms and Treatment Side Effects
Some good inflammation-fighting strains include the following:
- Charlotte’s Web (Sativa): Charlotte’s web treats various medical ailments, including inflammation. The strain only contains approximately 0.3 percent THC, but is high in CBD. It’s a useful strain for treating medical ailments with very little or no psychoactive properties.
- Harlequin (Sativa): Harlequin typically has a 5:2 CBD: THC ratio, making it perfect for those seeking pain relief but who want to avoid paranoia and stay alert. It’s a good strain for pain, depression, stress and inflammation.
- Girl Scout Cookies (Hybrid): GSC is high in THC and provides you with strong and full-body pain relief. You don’t use it primarily for reducing inflammation — instead, it helps with inflammation-related pain.
- ACDC (Hybrid): ACDC tends to fight everything. Many use it to treat a whole range of medical ailments, since it has high CBD content. It produces powerful pain-fighting effects but doesn’t produce the psychoactive effect many patients would rather do without.
- Cannatonic (Hybrid): Cannatonic is also high in CBD and works well in treating and preventing both pain and inflammation. It’s low in THC and produces a short-lived, mellow high.
Best Methods of Marijuana Treatment to Treat Side Effects and Symptoms of Conjunctivitis
Any therapy should be undertaken with the guidance of a healthcare professional or medical doctor with the proper training, acumen and experience. Today, doctors recommend cannabis more often and substitute it for prescription medication with addictive properties and serious side effects. Different delivery methods for cannabis and conjunctivitis treatment include:
- Inhalation: Inhaler, joints, pipes, vaporizers, dab and flame
- Oral: Edibles using butter, cooking oils or capsules
- Transdermal Patches: Cannabinoid-rich formulations passing through your skin from the patch into your bloodstream
- Topical: Oils, lotions, patches and creams
- Injection: IV drip or hypodermic needle
- Sublingual: Tinctures and essential oils
Keep in mind that when smoking cannabis, a common side effect is irritated and bloodshot eyes. Therefore, if your doctor prescribes you marijuana for conjunctivitis treatment, you need to choose the delivery method carefully.