Why does weed make your eyes red?
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- Under pressure: lower blood pressure and dilated capillaries
- Do edibles make your eyes red?
- The redder the better?
Among the most common effects of marijuana use (and telltale signs you’ve recently partaken) is red, bloodshot eyes. It’s to be expected, sure, but that doesn’t answer the mysterious question pondered by generations of stoners: why does weed make your eyes red?
For weed novices, the onset of bloodshot eyes could cause a panic-induced internet search asking “ can smoking weed damage your eyes? ” Thankfully, as those who regularly consume cannabis can tell new users, there are no serious health risks associated with your sudden red-eyed circumstance. You’re probably not experiencing an allergic reaction or some bigger complication. Some might poke fun or chastise you for sporting your so-called “ weed eyes ” in public, but otherwise, it’s a completely natural occurrence that transpires after smoking cannabis.
In fact, your eyes turning red has nothing to do with the act of smoking at all.
Under pressure: lower blood pressure and dilated capillaries
After consuming a cannabis-based product (flower, concentrate, edible, etc.), users generally experience an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. This effect is due to the plant’s cannabinoids, which are chemical compounds responsible for some of the therapeutic and medicinal benefits of cannabis, and their initial interaction with the body. This rise in blood pressure and heart rate is comparable to normal physical activities like exercise or sex.
It generally takes about five to ten minutes for users’ heart rates to return to normal and for blood pressure to begin to decrease. As the blood pressure lowers, the blood vessels and capillaries dilate, including the ocular capillaries . The dilation of ocular capillaries causes increased blood flow to the eyes, which results in your eyes turning red and also reduces intraocular pressure.
The dilation of ocular capillaries causes increased blood flow to the eyes, which results in your eyes turning red in the process, and also reduces intraocular pressure. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
In fact, according to Dr. Melanie Bone, a board-certified OB-GYN who practices in West Palm Beach, Florida, “It’s cannabis’ ability to reduce intraocular pressure in the eyes that makes it a potentially viable treatment for glaucoma , a group of eye disorders that causes damage to the optic nerves which can eventually lead to blindness. It also happens to explain why your eyes become bloodshot after smoking cannabis.”
Evidence that the THC found in cannabis can lower intraocular pressure (IOP) is a major reason why many glaucoma patients have attempted to use medical marijuana to treat and relieve symptoms of the disease. It’s important to know that some studies have contradicted or added a caveat to the claim that cannabis is beneficial for glaucoma. For instance, a 2018 study conducted at Indiana University found that cannabidiol (CBD), the non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in marijuana, could potentially worsen the condition by increasing eye pressure . More research into the use of cannabis for glaucoma treatment is needed.
Do edibles make your eyes red?
Similar to smoking cannabis, ingesting edibles could also make your eyes turn red. Again, this depends on the amount of THC consumed. Remember, it’s not the smoke itself that makes your eyes red, but rather the ability that cannabinoids have to lower blood pressure, causing blood vessels and capillaries to dilate.
The redder the better?
The amount your blood pressure is lowered and how red your eyes become depends on the amount of THC you consume.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the most common cannabinoid in the plant, is responsible for the intoxication associated with smoking cannabis. The greater the concentration of THC in a cannabis product, the stronger the effects and the redder your eyes become.
The greater the concentration of THC in a cannabis product, the stronger the effects and the redder your eyes become.
So, red eyes can act as a sign that your cannabis has a high cannabinoid content (i.e., it’s potent). In other words, if your eyes are noticeably bloodshot after consumption, there’s a good chance you’ve landed yourself some highly potent weed.
Other than being a dead giveaway that you’ve recently consumed cannabis, you have no reason to be concerned about the redness of your eyes. Cannabis-induced eye redness will typically only last a few hours and can easily resolve if you have the right tools at your disposal.
It isn’t a bad idea to have eye drops (or some sunglasses) on hand. Look for eye drop brands that are specifically designed to reduce eye redness. There are other methods that could potentially help combat cannabis-induced bloodshot eyes, including staying hydrated, washing your face and eyelids with cold water, or simply consuming cannabis products with lower THC levels.
Ever wonder why using marijuana or cannabis makes your eyes red or bloodshot? Discover why weed gives you bloodshot eyes.
How to Prevent Red Eyes After Consuming Cannabis
Tuesday January 7, 2020
T here’s nothing wrong with smoking some weed every now and then to chill yourself out or make your daily routine a little more fun. As long as you’re not operating heavy machinery, performing surgery, or running point on a hostage negotiation, you’re usually all good. Still, it’s better to stay discreet when possible. Being stoned is pretty fun, but there are few thoughts that will harsh your experience faster than “Everyone around me knows that I’m high.”
Of course, you already know the basics of how to cover up a quick toke. You can hide the smell by smoking outside, minting up your breath, changing your clothes, or using a dry herb vape. However, the one thing that’s hardest to hide is a case of red eyes. There’s a reason that it’s one of the most well-known signs of having indulged in some herb.
While some smokers never have to deal with red eyes, they are a lucky few. (They probably never get cottonmouth either.) Others deal with red eye their first few times smoking weed and then never again. Other consumers deal with it every time as though it’s some type of curse.
Whether or not you get red eye has a lot to do with your genetics, the strain being smoked, and other factors. For example, the more often you indulge, the less prominent the red eye will be. Much like time perception, your body seems to get used to it and adjust the more you do it.
What Causes Red Eyes After Smoking Cannabis?
Despite what you may think, it’s not the irritants in the smoke wafting up from your bowl or your joint that give your peepers that “Just went through a wind tunnel” look. It’s not from the coughing either. One of the effects of THC, the cannabinoid molecule doing most of the heavy lifting in marijuana, is that it can lower blood pressure. Unfortunately, where this effect is most noticeable is in the windows to the soul, your eyes.
As the pressure lowers in your inner eyeball, the small capillaries and blood vessels running through the whites of your eyes have more room to stretch out – thus, they become much more visible.
On the plus side, this is exactly why cannabis has been used as a medicine to treat glaucoma for years. By lowering intraocular pressure in the eye, it alleviates impaired vision by increasing the flow of nutrients into the ocular nerves. There’s even evidence that cannabis can help treat a number of symptoms of eye problems, and may help to prevent long term retinal damage.
How to Prevent or Get Rid of Red Eyes
Red eye from smoking cannabis will go away on its own after a couple of hours. But if you’re in a situation that you can’t just wait out, there are a couple of options that can help you recover faster so that you don’t have to blame a fake diagnosis of dual pink eye.
This is of course, the standard red eye relief. Whether the owners of eye drop brands like Visine know it or not, stoners have helped to put their kids and grandkids through college since the 1970s. (They know).
If you know you’re going to be burning one down before attending a social gathering, it’s best to put a small bottle of eye drops in your pocket or purse (there’s a reason they’re sold in travel size). If you forgot yours at home or need it one the fly, they’ll be available in any drug store, grocery store, convenience store, or gas station (there’s a reason for that too). Just one or two drops and your Incredible Hulk-sized blood vessels will shrink back down to Bruce Banner proportions in no time. Only use the recommended amount, though.
Drink Some Water
Sometimes red eye can be caused by dehydration from other issues, such as drinking too much caffeine or not staying hydrated on a hot day. A glass or two of water may help clear your whites out a little. It’s also a healthy choice for your body and may help with any dry mouth you’re experiencing.
Cold Compress or Ice Pack
If you’re near a refrigerator, or even a sink with frigid water, a cold compress can make a big difference. Like some other body parts, blood vessels shrink down when they get cold. This should hide the red and also wake you up a little.
Get a towel or cloth wet, put some ice in it if it’s available, and hold it onto your closed eyes for about 5-10 minutes. When you no longer look like you stared into a wind tunnel, take off the compress and go on with your day.
If red eyes are a regular issue, then the solution might be to decrease the amount of THC that you are consuming when you smoke up. Since THC is the main culprit, avoiding it should fix the problem. Low THC strains don’t necessarily mean less of a good time. There are still plenty of cannabinoids and terpenes that combine through the entourage effect into a fantastic experience.
Look, if you can’t get to some eye drops or a cold compress, your options are already pretty limited. You can either lie about having just watched a particularly emotional episode of This Is Us, or you can throw on some shades and be the coolest person in the room, or at least the most mysterious. If you’re outside and the sun’s out, even better.
Red eye is not a huge deal and something that can be easily taken care of with a little planning ahead or a little triage in the moment. Like dry mouth, it’s a minor annoyance that comes with indulging the herb. And like dry mouth, a little preparation can go a long way towards enjoying your high and the rest of your day.
Do you have any tips for avoiding red eyes after consuming cannabis? Share your thoughts and experiences with other readers in the comments below.
Everyone knows that consuming cannabis poses the risk of having red eyes in return. Luckily, there are several ways to prevent getting red eyes after smoking weed. Learn the top tips and tricks for making sure your eyes don't turn red after consuming marijuana.