Medical Cannabis & Glaucoma: Erin's StoryJune 20, 2017
After suffering a significant traumatic brain injury, Erin Delaney was diagnosed with Multiple Mechanism Glaucoma, a type of optic nerve damage with several difficult factors that make it hard to treat. With the help of her glaucoma specialist, she has explored every avenue to manage her condition’s symptoms.
Like many people managing chronic conditions, Erin’s medication list grew considerably over the years – from the prescriptions to treat her glaucoma to the medications intended to mitigate some of the side effects of her glaucoma meds, and so on. At one point Erin thought to herself, “I’m too young to be on so many pills.”
The conventional treatments weren’t as effective as Erin’s care team had hoped, and after further study the team concluded that the same brain injury that provoked the condition was overriding the treatments. A significant pressure attack brought Erin to her glaucoma specialist for a conversation about a new treatment plan.
During a pressure attack, pressure on the optic nerve increases rapidly and dramatically, often causing headaches and nausea. Pressure attacks may be triggered by small changes in the weather or a change in the patient’s activity level. Some glaucoma patients can tell if a pressure attack is about to happen, and take medications to forestall the side effects. Yet, in addition to the pain and nausea, there is fear: “one attack is all it takes to completely cut off circulation to the optic nerve,” Erin explained. The result would be blindness.
Once cleared by the state, Erin made an appointment at LeafLine Labs. “If you had told me two years ago that I would be on medical marijuana, I would have laughed you out of the room,” Erin said. “Like many, I thought it was just a bunch of ‘potheads’ looking for a legal loophole.” Her sentiment has since changed.
Walking through the doors for the first time, Erin remembers, “the facility itself felt like a dignified, serious clinical setting. I learned that my phenomenal pharmacist used to work with the neurologist who treated my aneurysm. His knowledge of the protocols in place and the context let me know he was ‘on it,’ which was a huge relief.”
Erin also toured the production facilities where the cannabis plants are grown, oils extracted, and medicine crafted. Learning of the credentials and backgrounds of the lab team, Erin remarked, “I was both blown away and not at all surprised to see all of the protocols and care that go into the extraction process. They are committed to producing a product of consistently high quality.”
After considering her options, Erin decided to try the Heather vaporizer oil cartridges; a product with a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD.
“I wanted to start light, a decision my pharmacist respected,” said Erin. “Initially I was concerned about mood alterations and possible side effects; I’ve got a 7-year-old to keep up with!”
Within a few minutes of taking Heather, Erin can feel the pressure easing. She has even measured a 7-point drop in her optic nerve pressure at her doctor’s office. Erin has been able to keep her optic pressure readings low enough on Heather to qualify for additional surgical procedures to treat her glaucoma.
Erin notes that Heather is not a cure nor a replacement – but rather it is a key component in her integrated care plan that has helped her reduce the number of her prescribed medications by 50 percent. “For treating the secondary symptoms of my pressure attacks, I now vape for nearly instant relief. Before I would have taken pills that would take time to go into effect and still leave me with stomachaches and uclers. Medications are expensive already, but add in the side effects and over time you question their true value to your quality of life.”
While her glaucoma will continue to progress, Erin is happy with her newfound relief. “I didn’t know what to expect in terms of outcomes, but I am surprised by what a difference it makes,” said Erin. “It’s an investment, but at the same time when I add up what I was paying for all my meds (even with copays), Heather winds up being cheaper. It’s less harmful to my body and definitely has improved my quality of life.”