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An Introduction to CBD

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the second most prevalent cannabinoid in cannabis. CBD oil is made from hemp, which contains very low levels of THC. THC is the compound in marijuana that causes intoxicating effects. But CBD oil derived from hemp will not get you high. 

In 1970, all cannabis was classified by the Controlled Substance Act as a controlled substance with no medical use. It was only in 2018 that hemp was removed from the list. Now hemp plants with less than 3% THC are redefined as industrial hemp and legal to be grown, processed, sold, and consumed throughout the US. 

CBD has quickly gained lots of attention for its potential therapeutic benefits, and the research to support claims is catching up. We still don’t know many secrets behind CBD and how it affects us, including the way it impacts our eyes and vision. Reports are varied leaving people to wonder what to expect when it comes to CBD oil side effects on eyes. 

What to Do When CBD Oil Accidentally Gets in the Eyes

Before we get into the science of CBD and its effects on the eyes, here is some information on what to do if you accidentally get CBD oil into your eyes and it has a negative effect. 

If your hands are not clean, then quickly wash them with some warm and soapy water. Then flush your eye with cool water. You can do this with cool tap water or a saline solution if you have it. 

Try to flush your eyes out as soon as possible. If you wear contacts, remove them first. Use clean water from the sink or shower. You may need to flush your eyes for as long as fifteen minutes or more to be sure that everything is safely washed away. 

Don’t rub your eyes as this can cause irritation. If you experience redness or any pain, you should seek medical assistance. 

Important Note: If there is any essential oil in your CBD oil then you may need to wash your eye with another oil. Since water and oil don’t mix, you may wash the essential oils deeper into your eye. 

Instead, you may need to flush your eye with something like coconut oil or olive oil instead. To flush your eye with oil, pour some into your hand and pat it around the edges of your eye. Don’t pour it directly into your eye. 

If your CBD oil has more harsh ingredients, you may need to call Poison Control to learn how to effectively wash it out of your eye. To be safe, you should only buy CBD products that are transparently sourced and manufactured with natural ingredients. Always check for lab reports to verify this information. 

CBD and the Endocannabinoid System

Back to the CBD science! CBD creates effects in the body by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS). This is the system responsible for regulating our important bodily functions. It helps to control everything from hunger to mood, pain perception, and sleep. 

When it is working properly, it keeps us balanced so that our bodies can positively respond to outside stresses. Lots of cannabinoids interact with this system by binding directly with CB1 and CB2 receptors in our brains and bodies. 

But CBD does a bit of its own thing within this system. It doesn’t actually bind to these receptors, but it does interact with them. It also interacts with a lot of other touchpoints throughout the ECS as well like receptors, enzymes, and ion channels

Researchers think that CBD interacts with these targets to help keep the body’s naturally produced cannabinoids around as long as possible. This may help the body to find its own balance easier because it might be better able to deal with stressors.

Why Do People Take CBD?

There is endless anecdotal evidence of CBD having positive effects on people with varying conditions. But we will stick to just the studies that have been completed. 

The findings are based on pre-clinical data, limited clinical data, and ongoing human clinical trials. 

Pre-clinical studies show that CBD has antioxidant effects. The antioxidant effects of CBD can interrupt and capture free radicals and can help the body better respond to oxidative stress. 

CBD is also shown to have strong anti-inflammatory properties. These properties are thought to be responsible for helping to relieve tension in the body and relax sore muscles. 

Pre-clinical trials have also shown CBD has anticonvulsant, neuroprotective, and anti-cancer properties. And it may also be able to help with cardiovascular, neurological, and neuropsychiatric disorders. 

The completed clinical trials have been for CBD use for epilepsy and seizure disorders, general pain and associated disorders, drug abuse and use disorders, other neurological conditions, and psychiatric conditions. 

At the time that this article was originally written in the summer of 2022, there are dozens of ongoing clinical trials in the United States exploring the effects of CBD. 

Multiple studies have explored the therapeutic potential of CBD in the eye. There are several published reviews about using cannabinoids for the treatment of glaucoma and retinal disorders, even though new findings seem to contradict this. Reviews and studies are just now starting to focus on the ocular tissues and how CBD may affect ocular disorders, and so far the reason for contradictory findings is still unknown. 

Does CBD Have Any Effects on the Eyes?

Many people are confused about how CBD can interact with the eyes. Since THC products are known to cause red, irritated eyes, many wonder if CBD will cause the same type of reaction. But you don’t have to worry about bloodshot eyes when taking CBD in the morning because it won’t have that effect. 

Bloodshot eyes occur when the small blood vessels in the eyes become dilated. But this doesn’t happen when you use CBD. On the contrary, evidence shows that CBD eye drops may help the treatment of corneal pain and inflammation. This may actually help prevent bloodshot eyes. The study has created a high hope for CBD drops that can effectively help eye inflammation. 

CBD also appears to have anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial for the eye’s retina. The retina may become inflamed due to other health conditions. But the CBD may be able to reduce that inflammation, improving the condition of the eye. 

CBD also appears to inhibit a substance that encourages new blood cell growth that can lead to tumor development in the eyes. It is called vascular endothelial growth factor, and people with too much of it regularly get injections into their eyes to suppress it. Early research suggests that CBD may be able to help in similar ways to the injection. 

The cornea is a thin tissue in the eye. If it is damaged, infection can occur. Trauma or infection can lead to corneal neuropathic pain. CBD seems to be able to help with reducing pain in the cornea by reducing inflammation. This may be able to help those who deal with irritated eyes. 

CBD and Ocular Eye Pressure

Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes the build-up of fluid pressure in the eye. If it is left untreated, glaucoma can eventually lead to vision loss and permanent blindness. It can occur at any age, but most commonly happens among the elderly. 

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States,and the message around whether or not CBD can help is confusing. CBD used to be used to help patients with glaucoma, but in recent years eye doctors have started warning against it. 

New studies have shown that CBD may raise eye pressure. A rise in eye pressure is a concern for those with glaucoma, as that condition is caused by high-pressure levels in the first place. The optic nerve becomes damaged under the stress of the pressure. This destroys its ability to transfer important information to the brain and results in vision loss. 

And there is no other clear take-away to look to. Among nine independent reports that have been published about CBD and intraocular pressure, there are almost evenly-split results. 

Four reports indicate that there is no effect on intraocular pressure from CBD use. Three reports indicate that CBD decreases intraocular pressure.  And two reports found a CBD-induced increase in intraocular pressure. 

For now, there is just no clear indication of whether or not CBD increases, decreases, or doesn’t have any effect on intraocular pressure and glaucoma. Due to this, it is best to steer clear of CBD for now if you have an issue with eye pressure. 

At the very least,make sure to speak with your doctor before using CBD supplements. 

The Impact of CBD Bioavailability

Bioavailability is a measure of the amount of CBD that will enter the bloodstream and have an active effect. CBD with poor bioavailability needs to be delivered at high doses to have an effect. But administering high doses may increase the risk of some side effects like drowsiness or reduced appetite. 

If CBD is ingested as an edible, it has to go through a process called first-pass metabolism. This means it is metabolized by the liver and some of the CBD gets broken down before you have the chance to absorb it and feel its effects. 

Another factor that limits the bioavailability of CBD is that it is hydrophobic. This means that it is limited in its ability to dissolve in water so it diffuses and absorbs into our bodies poorly. 

Topical and oral delivery are common methods for ocular conditions. The first pass metabolism keeps a large portion of CBD from having any effects on the eye. Because of this, topical delivery might be preferred. 

But delivering CBD topically to the eye is a challenging task. Less than 5% of topicals applied to the eye actually enter the eye. To get around this, studies that topically applied CBD to participants’ eyes used a delivery vehicle like mineral or sesame oil. 

This may be why some of the studies have shown different outcomes. One report that used mineral oil found results that lowered eye pressure. But one of the studies that used sesame oil found no effect. 

These results shed light on the fact that more research needs to go into finding an effective vehicle for topically CBD delivery to the eyes. 

Another point of concern when it comes to CBD and its effects on the eyes is its short duration of effects. Some of the reports that showed decreased pressure only showed lasting results for one to two hours after topical application. 

Current findings suggest CBD would need to be applied multiple times a day to maintain the therapeutic effects desired. Health professionals are skeptical that patients would comply with such a rigorous application schedule. 

Conflicting Information About CBD and the Eyes

CBD has been found to be safe and well tolerated for many people with many conditions. But when it comes to the eyes, there is lacking clarity. 

As more studies are done, the information continues to contradict itself. In some cases, studies show that CBD may lower intraocular pressure in the eye. But in other studies, it seems that it can increase eye pressure significantly. 

More studies need to be done before anyone can say with certainty the extent of effects CBD has on the eyes. This all being said, do not attempt to change or replace any prescribed eye medications without talking to your doctor first. 

Future Findings to Look Forward To

Typical CBD use causes few side effects on the eyes to worry about. But if you have a pre-existing eye condition, then it may not be the best option for you. 

Although there are mixed findings, the results from CBD studies on glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and corneal injury are promising. Researchers believe it is worthwhile to explore the potential of CBD for helping with other eye conditions like age-related macular degeneration. 

The more we learn about how CBD works inside the eye, the better we will be able to understand how to find safe and efficacious ways to deliver it. 

If you have no health conditions that affect the eyes, it is probably safe to take CBD in the recommended dosages. However, if you have a pre-existing eye condition, you may want to speak with your doctor before trying any new products.