Glaucoma vs. Cataracts
Glaucoma and cataract are both physical conditions that are enhanced after a certain age and are rather prevalent in diabetic patients. These are the most common chronic eye diseases but their effects on the eyes are completely different. Although they have some similar symptoms and share some risk factors, they have different causes, treatments, and outcomes.
1. What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a chronic condition that poses an effect on the optic nerve. When a fluid, called aqueous humor, builds up in the eye, it causes an increase in eye pressure, known as intraocular pressure (IOP). This occurs when there is either an overproduction of aqueous humor or your trabecular meshwork (the tissue through which this liquid drains) becomes blocked. High intraocular pressure (IOP) causes damage to the optic nerve, which, in turn, causes glaucoma. It can be either quick and painful or slow and subtle.
Related Blog: Cataract Types, Causes, Symptoms and Risk Factors
2. What are Cataracts?
A cataract is a very common condition mostly found in diabetic patients, particularly is found in old age. It is defined as a cloudy area in the lens of the eye. The lens allows the light to enter the eye and project images to the retina at the back of the eye. When the proteins inside the eye, break down, and they clump together to form the aforementioned cloudy area which is typically white, yellow, or brown.
Differences Between Glaucoma and Cataracts
As we age, our eyes, like any other part of the body, become susceptible to disease. How about a closer look at the risk factors and the major differences between both chronic conditions?
Glaucoma vs. Cataracts: Causes
Glaucoma and cataracts both mostly affect older adults and impair vision. However, their causes and effects on the eyes are quite different. They also have different treatment procedures.
1. Glaucoma –
Caused by eye pressure and affects the optic nerve. Its progression is either painful and swift or slow and subtle. When aqueous humor – a fluid – builds up in the eye, increases the pressure in the eye known as intraocular pressure (IOP). This happens either due to an overproduction of aqueous humor or when the trabecular meshwork is blocked. High intraocular pressure (IOP) damages the optic nerve, which, in turn, causes glaucoma.
2. Cataracts –
Cataracts are a result of clumped protein in the eye that blocks the light from entering the lens. The lens allows the light to enter the eye and project images to the retina at the back of the eye. When the proteins inside the eye break down, they clump together to form the aforementioned cloudy area which is typically white, yellow, or brown.
Glaucoma vs. Cataracts: Sign & Symptoms
1. Glaucoma –
Glaucoma may not present any symptoms at first, especially if it builds slowly but the patient might experience some of these symptoms depending on the type of Glaucoma:
- Some loss of your peripheral vision.
- Closed-angle glaucoma includes intense eye pain.
- The eye may feel firm to the touch, and it may appear red.
- Blurry vision
Viability of halos of light glowing around everything.
Cataract takes time to develop which is why the symptoms are not visible in the beginning but eventually the patient experiences some of these symptoms:
- Blurred vision
- Double vision
- Poor night vision
- Extra sensitivity to light
- Pale or faded colors
- Frequent changes to your eyewear prescription
Glaucoma vs. Cataracts: Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis – Glaucoma can be diagnosed during a routine eye exam. To diagnose glaucoma, the doctor will likely prescribe eye drops that dilate the pupil. The doctor will also test the pressure in your eye. And suggest a few tests.
Treatment – The first treatment option for glaucoma is often medicated eye drops that may help decrease the pressure in your eye. If eye drops aren’t effective enough the ophthalmologist may perform laser surgery to help the eye fluid to drain properly. In extremely untreatable cases, surgery is suggested.
Diagnosis – Cataracts are detected with a simple dilation test during a routine eye exam. The doctor will place eye drops into your eyes to temporarily dilate the pupil making it easy to examine the lens for cataracts.
Treatment – Treatment for cataracts depends on its progression. If the cataracts are small, a change in the prescription will suffice. But if the cataracts are advanced, the doctor may suggest laser surgery. Cataract surgery is a common procedure that usually delivers good results.
Glaucoma vs. Cataracts: Risk Factors
- People over the age of 60 are at a higher risk for glaucoma.
- People who have a history of glaucoma development in the family.
- Genetic defects
- Rarely, some people are born with cataracts because of an infection in the uterus while some people develop cataracts when they’re children.
- Cataracts can also form after your eye has been injured or as a result of eye surgery.
- High blood pressure
- Long-term steroid use
- Excessive alcohol use
- Excessive sun exposure
Glaucoma vs. Cataracts: FAQs
Knowing and understanding the patient’s ocular situation is vital to successful treatment. To understand the risks and the treatments better, the patient needs to talk to the ophthalmologist and get the facts straight.
Q1. How are glaucoma and cataracts similar?
- Both conditions cause vision loss.
- Both of these eye diseases happen more commonly in people with diabetes.
- Surgery is a treatment option for both glaucoma and cataracts.
Q2. How are glaucoma and cataracts different?
- Glaucoma involves effects on the optic nerve, whereas cataracts involve effects on the lens.
- Cataracts are painless and happen over time, whereas glaucoma can be either slow and subtle or quick and painful, depending on the type of glaucoma and severity.
- Glaucoma can cause irreversible blindness, whereas vision loss is less likely with cataracts (albeit still possible).
- Vision loss in cataracts can be reversed with surgery, whereas it cannot with glaucoma surgery.
- Cataract surgery involves removing the lens and replacing it with an artificial lens, whereas glaucoma surgery uses a laser to open up the blocked canals that are preventing fluid drainage.
- Cataracts are not urgent medical conditions, whereas early prevention and treatment are crucial in glaucoma.
Q3. Are cataracts and glaucoma-related?
Both conditions can be a natural part of the aging process. Many people over 60 may have both. Otherwise, the two are not associated.
- A cataract is an eye condition where cloudiness, or opacity in the lens, blocks or changes the entry of light, affecting vision.
A glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually steals sight without warning and often without symptoms. Vision loss is caused by damage to the optic nerve.
Q4. Are cataracts or glaucoma more common?
While both the conditions have similarities and like the rest of our body, our eyes eventually tire, age, and become susceptible to disease and other vision-related conditions. Two of the most common vision-threatening conditions are glaucoma and cataracts. Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness, with glaucoma a close runner-up.
Q5. Do untreated cataracts lead to glaucoma?
If left untreated, over time, cataracts can become worse and start to interfere with vision. Vision is compromised because of which important skills can be affected. In worse cases, cataracts will eventually cause total blindness.
Q6. Can cataracts be removed if you have glaucoma?
When these two chronic eye conditions happen concurrently, vision is dramatically impaired. People will often ask if it is possible to have cataract surgery while living with glaucoma. The short answer is yes. Since cataract surgery can result in changes in eye pressure, patients with progressed glaucoma and cataracts should be assessed on an individual basis to determine which cataract treatment option will be safest and most effective.
When To See Your Eye Doctor
Make an appointment with your usual eye care provider if you notice the above-mentioned changes in your vision. If the doctor determines that you have cataracts, then you may be referred to an ophthalmic specialist who can perform cataract surgery. Similarly, in the case of Glaucoma, see a doctor if you experience eye pain and or peripheral blind spots.
While glaucoma and cataracts can both lead to vision loss if they’re not diagnosed and treated early, both conditions can cause blurry vision as well as other symptoms.
As a result, vision impairment and compromise because of the conditions are likely to lead to blindness. Glaucoma is the result of the buildup of fluid inside your eye. Treatment is focused on reducing the fluid pressure in your eye. Cataracts are caused by an accumulation of protein in the lens of your eye. With age, you’re increasingly likely to develop cataracts. Fortunately, cataract surgery can help restore vision for most people.
It’s important to have regular eye exams to ensure that glaucoma or cataracts are detected early enough to keep your eyes healthy and your vision clear, especially as you get older.
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