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Why the Cannabis Red Eye When You’re High?

Cannabis Red Eye,Medical Marijuana,DocMJ

There is a reason why movies about cannabis popularized wearing dark sunglasses.  Enter the person with eyes so red that anyone could tell what he was doing on his break.  And so, for some, wearing sunglasses makes a lot of sense if you want to keep cannabis red eye under wraps.

Many people think that the red eye symptoms are due to irritation from smoke.  But you don’t get the red eye from smoking cigarettes. However, did you know that you can also develop telltale red eyes from vaping and edibles too?  So it is not just about the clouds of smoke or vapor; THC affects your eyes in a variety of ways.

It is not all bad news, though. There may be some ways that THC can actually help your eyes and reduce other painful conditions.  In this article, we’ll share where the red eye irritation comes from and how THC impacts your eyes.  

We will also discuss clinical studies that suggest patients with Glaucoma may benefit from medical cannabis. And what to do if you need to get your eyes back to normal asap. 

cannabis for glaucoma

Does Cannabis Hurt My Eyes?

In some states, Glaucoma is a qualifying health condition. That means, at some level, cannabis must help vision or reduce eye inflammation.  And provide benefits that can help patients suffering from the symptoms of glaucoma.

No matter how you ingest cannabis (smokable, edible, sublingual uptake/tincture), THC starts immediately to raise your blood pressure, and your heart rate increases.  But then it starts to decline within thirty minutes and returns to normal.  

In that temporary period of raised blood pressure, a higher volume of blood flows through your eyes.  And that is where the symptom of cannabis red eye comes from. And it can last for several hours.  

But the changes in pressure are temporary, and in most cases, there is no damage or lasting effects.  Some people can experience blurriness of vision, however. Most patients experience symptoms of Glaucoma for years before vision impairment occurs. 

Cannabis and Patients With Glaucoma

Did you know that Glaucoma is a common qualifying health condition? It is true.  Patients who have been diagnosed with Glaucoma can become registered and get a medical card.  In most states where medical cannabis is legalized. 

After cataracts, Glaucoma is the second leading condition that causes blindness globally.  It is estimated that about three million Americans have been diagnosed with Glaucoma.  And many more may have the condition and not know it.  Symptoms of Glaucoma can often be missed when patients believe vision loss is part of normal aging.

One specific type of the disease (Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma), or POAG, is the most common.  And it results in increased eye pressure.  However, in the early stages of POAG, patients may not even realize they have it, as symptoms are almost non-existent.

Symptoms of Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma (AACG)

Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma (AACG) is a little different. It is considered to be a medical emergency, as the level of pressure in the eye(s) is so significant that it can cause lasting or permanent vision damage.

Some of the other symptoms that patients with Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma experience include:

  • Severe headache
  • Severe eye pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Halos or colored rings around lights
  • Eye redness

Prescription eye drops and other types of medications can cause Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma. Many clinical studies suggest that cannabinoids help reduce intraocular pressure (IOP).  For alternative therapy, patients with Glaucoma can intake cannabinoids orally (edibles or capsules), intravenously (injection or IV preparation), and inhalation (smokable).  

But you won’t find the same positive results if you try to administer cannabis drops in the eyes for Glaucoma. Studies suggest that the direct application of a cannabis solution is the least effective way to alleviate painful pressure.

Is There a Way to Stop Cannabis Red Eye?

You will unlikely be able to completely prevent getting red eyes when you ingest cannabis.  But choosing products with lower THC content will definitely help.  The higher the THC level, the darker your eyes will become. 

There is also a misconception that you can avoid red eye symptoms if you are an experienced cannabis user.  Or that people who are just starting to use medical cannabis are more susceptible.  They aren’t.  It all depends on your body and the THC potency of the cannabis you are using. 

How Do You Get Rid of Red Eyes from Cannabis?

Veteran cannabis users have a few tricks and tips up their sleeves.  Especially when it comes to masking the most apparent sign of cannabis use; red, irritated eyes.  There is always the option of waiting it out because the redness will dissipate over time.  On average, the redness will go away after one to two hours.  For some people, it can take up to four hours to clear up.

Here are some methods to reduce cannabis red eye:

1. Stay Well Hydrated to Reduce Cannabis Red Eye

When you are dehydrated, every mucus membrane in your body is too.  And that includes the eyes.  Drinking lots of water before and after consuming medical marijuana can help your eyes get back to normal more quickly.  

cannabis dehydration

Some strains of cannabis are also known for pronounced symptoms of dehydration.  Avoid cannabis that indicates it causes “cottonmouth” or “dry eyes” if you want to reduce the severity of dry eyes after your edible or smoke session

2. Use Eye Drops

Soothing eye drops with natural ingredients that moisturize provide good results.  Some people choose to use eye drops before they smoke or vape cannabis.  While others use it only after they have noticed the redness.  

Using a moisturizing eye solution before and after you consume THC (smokable or edibles) is your best bet to fight red eye symptoms. That helps reduce the severity of the irritation and helps rinse THC particulates from the eyes and get back to bright white. 

cannabis red eyes

3. Get Some Caffeine 

Coffee, soda, tea, or energy drink?  It really doesn’t matter how you ingest your caffeine, but if you want to eliminate the appearance of red eyes, you should increase your caffeine content.  Because while THC dilates the blood vessels in your eyes, caffeine constricts them.  And that means less irritation and noticeable redness. 

Some people like to “wake and bake” and put cannabis in their coffee.  It sounds like a smart idea when you consider that THC and caffeine together can help you avoid glow-in-the-dark eyes for a few hours. And caffeine can also help offset some sedating effects depending on the strain you are using.

red eyes from cannabis

4. Eye Compresses for Cannabis Red Eye

If your eyes are bright red, the other methods are not working, and you must go somewhere. It is time to break out some eye compresses.  You can try a cold compress placed for fifteen minutes on your eyes.  Or try a warm teabag, and green tea works best if you have it.

If nothing works, don a pair of sunglasses and head out.  That is one of the reasons why sunglasses were designed anyhow. And it is not a bad idea since your eyes may be more photosensitive, and exposure could make your red eye reaction to cannabis last longer. 


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