Glaucoma Vs Cataracts – What Are The Differences?

Difference between glaucoma and cataracts

Table of Contents

Our eyes, like every other part of our bodies, become vulnerable to illness as we age. Glaucoma and cataracts are the most prevalent visual disorders among elderly people. Cataracts are the main cause of blindness around the globe. Cataracts are thought to be the cause of 51 percent of blindness worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Glaucoma affects around 80 million individuals worldwide in 2020, with the number expected to rise to approximately 111 million by 2040.

Despite the fact that glaucoma and cataract diseases are common, few individuals are aware of how they vary and impact vision. Let’s look at the fundamentals of both glaucoma and cataracts, and compare their similarities and distinctions, as well as the dangers they represent to your eyesight if left untreated.

Glaucoma and cataracts are two eye diseases that may cause vision loss and damage to your eye’s health. Even though they overlap certain symptoms and risk factors, they have distinct origins, treatments, and results.

What exactly is glaucoma?

Glaucoma involves eye pressure and is caused by an accumulation of fluid inside the eye which increases the eye pressure. When eye fluid called aqueous humordoes not drain correctly, pressure is applied to the optic nerve. This may result in a visual loss that is irreversible. The goal of glaucoma treatment is to lower the pressure of the fluid in the eye. This is done with eye drops initially and helps to open the eye’s drainage angle.

The optic nerve is located at the back of the eye and is responsible for transmitting information from the eye to the portion of the brain responsible for image processing. When eye pressure is excessively high, it puts strain on the optic nerve, making it difficult for it to function properly.  Excessive intraocular pressure can cause eye pain, blurred vision, and adds many risk factors.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in those over the age of 60. However, such visual loss may be avoided with early diagnosis and treatment.

Who does glaucoma affect?

When compared to whites, African Americans, particularly those over the age of 40, have a higher chance of getting glaucoma. Diabetes patients are twice as likely to get glaucoma as individuals who do not have diabetes. Being at least 60 years old and having a family history of glaucoma are other risk factors for both cataracts and glaucoma.

What is the root of the problem?

Glaucoma patients often have excessive eye pressure. Here’s how it works: Aqueous humor is a fluid found in the eyes. It maintains eye health by supplying nutrients to the lens and cornea, which are both deprived of a direct blood supply. The eyes are continuously producing new fluid while draining the old. The production of fluid and drainage are completely balanced in a normal eye, and ocular pressure remains within normal limits. When anything stops the eye from draining properly such as  in the case of angle closure glaucoma or when someone generates excessive amounts of fresh fluid. This mismatch may eventually lead to excessive eye pressure. Elevated intraocular eye pressure wears down the optic nerve over time, causing it to deteriorate.

symptoms of glaucoma

Types of Glaoucoma

Primary open-angle glaucoma accounts for the overwhelming majority of glaucoma patients. The pressure rises gradually, visual loss and optic nerve damage also  occurs gradually.

Closed-angle instances account for around 10% of all cases, in which the obstruction occurs abruptly. The signs and symptoms appear quickly and are severe. Closed-angle glaucoma is a serious eye disease that requires urgent medical care.

Angle-closure glaucoma is more prone to cause unexpected symptoms, such as severe eye discomfort. Your eye may look red and feel hard to the touch. You may also feel sick.
Your vision may be hazy and you may see halos shining around everything if you have closed-angle glaucoma. If you experience signs of closed-angle glaucoma, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

What are some of the symptoms of glaucoma?

The initial sign of glaucoma is a dimming of peripheral vision. The longer the disease continues unnoticed and untreated, the more harm it may do, ultimately causing blindness by spreading over your whole field of vision. Because glaucoma typically has no symptoms until it has caused irreversible vision loss, it’s important to get frequent eye examinations so your eye doctor can monitor your eye pressure and search for early indications of the illness.

  • In the rare form of glaucoma called angle-closure glaucoma these symptoms may be observed:
  • Seeing halos around bright objects and lights
  • Loss of vision
  • Redness in your eye
  • Cloudy looking eyes (particularly in infants)
  • Nausea
  • Eye pain
  • Blurry or cloudy vision


What are glaucoma treatments?

Eye drops are the usually the first glaucoma treatment. These either reduce the fluid or enhance the flow of fluid out of your eye, reducing ocular pressure. Allergies, redness, stinging, impaired vision, and irritated eyes are all possible side effects. Some glaucoma medications (certain eye drops) may harm your heart and lungs. Because of the risk of drug interactions, inform your optometrist about any other medical conditions you may have or medicines you are taking. Also, let them know if following a regimen including multiple different eye drops is difficult for you, or if there are any adverse effects. Changes may be made to make a difference in your therapy.

  • Medications used orally. Your doctor may also prescribe an oral medicine, such as a beta-blocker or a CAI, for you to take. These medications may help with drainage or slow the production of fluid in the eye.
  • Laser surgery is a procedure that involves the use of an If you have open-angle glaucoma, this treatment may help to increase the flow of fluid out of your eye. If you have angle-closure glaucoma, it may help you avoid fluid obstruction.
  • Treatment options for glaucoma are only successful if the illness is detected early. Glaucoma vision loss cannot be restored, therefore it’s critical to get frequent eye examinations, particularly if you’re over 60. Early detection is critical.
  • The extent to which the illness has advanced and how effectively the pressure can be managed will determine whether you are a candidate for phototherapy, drops, oral medication, or glaucoma surgery.

What are cataracts and how do you get them?

A cataract is a condition in which the lens of your eye becomes clouded. The lens enables light to enter the eye, allowing pictures to be projected onto the retina at the rear of the eye. It also enables you to adjust the focus of your eyes, allowing you to view things up close and far away.

The most frequent cause of visual loss in the globe is cataracts. According to the National Eye Institute, more than half of individuals over the age of 80 in the United States have cataracts or have had them surgically removed in the past.


Who do they affect?

Cataracts can affect anyone however the most common form is a nuclear cataract and is mostly found in older adults and is due to a lot of sun exposure. Some people are born with congenital cataracts, and some get them from being hit in the eye which can happen at any age. Other forms develop from chronic inflammatory diseases that require continuous steroid use, which can also be at any age but tends to occur in middle adulthood.

What are the causes of cataracts?

Cataracts are produced by a buildup of protein in your eye’s lens. Cloudy vision, yellowish hue, and poor night vision are all symptoms of this condition. Cataracts are more prone to form as you become older. Lucky for us, cataract surgery helps most individuals regain their eyesight.

The most frequent cause of cataracts, however, is the normal aging of your eyes. Cataracts affect approximately 2.5 percent of individuals under the age of 40, but by the age of 75, that percentage has risen to nearly 49 percent.

Cataracts may be caused by a variety of factors, including excessive UV light exposure, eye damage, certain medicines, such as prolonged steroid usage, and others that are hereditary, meaning you were born with it.

What are some of the signs and symptoms of cataracts?

Cataracts progressively impair eyesight. As though you’re gazing through a fog, your eyesight will get hazier and blurrier. As your symptoms worsen, colors and contrasts become less distinct, making driving more challenging, especially at night. You may also become photophobic or light-sensitive to bright lights or the sun’s glare, and you’ll be more likely to fall and injure yourself as a result of your impaired eyesight. Cataracts will worsen if not treated, leading to impaired vision that cannot be corrected with contact lenses or glasses.

Cataract treatment options

When cataract development makes it difficult to do things like drive, read, or recognize faces, surgery for cataract removal is usually recommended. Many can live with cataracts for many years without suffering major vision loss, while others’ vision may decline rapidly as they develop cataracts and need surgery right when cataracts are diagnosed. For most, cataracts take years to significantly affect their vision to need surgery. During this time as the cataract forms, it will cause slight changes in the person’s glasses prescription. So changing one’s glasses every year or two may be all that is needed.

Cataract treatment options

When it comes to glaucoma and cataracts, how similar are they and how different are they?

Although glaucoma and cataracts both impair vision and mostly affect older people, their origins and effects are very different. Glaucoma surgery corrects the drainage obstruction, thereby decreasing fluid accumulation within your eye, while cataract surgery includes replacing the clouded intraocular lens with a clear intraocular lens and usually restores vision.

Does glaucoma induce cataracts, or Do cataracts cause glaucoma?

Medical disorders that cause visual loss include glaucoma and cataracts. When glaucoma and cataracts develop at the same time, the patient has a unique combination of issues that need treatment by a specialist who is familiar with both conditions. Cataracts usually develop slowly, producing a change in the lens of the eye over time, resulting in cloudiness and a reduction in vision. Glaucoma is a category of eye disorders characterized by an increase in intraocular pressure (IOP), which damages the optic nerve and results in visual loss. While cataract-related vision loss may be restored with surgery, glaucoma-related vision loss is irreversible.

Although glaucoma doesn’t cause cataracts, certain kinds of glaucoma surgery or therapy may hasten the development of cataracts. According to research, some glaucoma medicines, as well as shunt surgery or a trabeculectomy, may hasten the development of cataracts. However, the significance of glaucoma therapy exceeds any risk of cataract formation.

If glaucoma and cataracts are not detected and treated early, they may potentially result in visual loss. That’s why it’s critical to have regular eye examinations to detect cataracts or glaucoma early. In this manner, particularly as you become older, you’ll be able to maintain your eyesight clean and your eyes healthy.

Which is worse glaucoma or cataracts?

Glaucoma damage is permanent and cataracts can easily be removed.  It makes sense to say that glaucoma is worse and you’re at higher risk of permanent vision loss. However if the patient is unable to obtain cataract surgery the vision with a mature cataract can be just as bad if not worse than that of a glaucoma patient.  Cataract development can come on faster whereas glaucoma is more gradual. The treatments are also much more time-intensive, technical (as in the surgeries), and chronic (as in the drops) compared to cataract surgery However laser surgery is better for both.  If left untreated both can be very bad for vision.

Which hurts more glaucoma or cataracts?

Both conditions are for the most part painless with the exception of the rare case of angle-closure glaucoma.

What do the surgerical procedures for cataracts and glaucoma entail?

The clouded lens in the eye is removed and replaced with a clear artificial lens during cataract surgery (IOL).
Glaucoma surgical procedures aim to lower eye pressure by making it easier for the fluid (aqueous humor) that is constantly generated within the eye to drain.

Are you ready to talk to our low vision specialists all over the country?

What is the prognosis of each condition?

The outcomes of these two scenarios are also distinct. Cataract surgery may frequently let you see well again. However, if you lose part of your vision due to glaucoma, it will most likely be irreversible.

Regular eye exams with an optometrist or ophthalmologist at a low vision clinic are the best way to ensure that your eyes and vision stay healthy and functional. Whether it’s glaucoma vs cataracts or macular degeneration vs Dry eye disease, the best treatment is always prevention.


About the Author: 
Related Posts