Glaucoma and cataracts are both eye conditions that can impact the eye’s health and result in vision loss. Although they can share similar symptoms and risk factors, such as occurring in older age, both conditions are usually unrelated.
This article provides an overview of both eye conditions and discusses the possible relationship between glaucoma and cataracts.
Glaucoma is an eye condition where fluid pressure rises within the eye. This increase in pressure can damage the optic nerve and result in vision loss. It is generally more common after the age of
Cataracts are more common in people over
While both conditions affect vision, anecdotal evidence suggests glaucoma is typically the most severe.
Cataracts are typically painless and occur gradually, whereas glaucoma can develop quickly with painful symptoms.
Although vision loss is possible with cataracts, especially if left untreated, it is more likely to happen with glaucoma. Surgery can help to reverse vision loss with cataracts, but glaucoma surgery cannot
Cataracts are not usually urgent, but early prevention and treatment are essential for managing glaucoma.
According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, cataracts and glaucoma are more common in older adults and can be a natural part of aging. However, besides sharing some risk factors and both being eye conditions, doctors do not typically associate the two.
Although having one condition does not directly lead to the development of the other, having one condition can increase the risk of developing the other.
Although glaucoma does not increase the risk of cataracts, Glaucoma UK indicates that some treatments for glaucoma may worsen cataracts and speed up their formation. Similarly, cataracts can increase the risk of
While both conditions are more likely in older age, certain medical conditions or medications can increase the risk of developing both.
Risk factors for cataracts
Most cataracts occur due to age-related changes in the eye’s lens that result in it becoming cloudy. However, other factors that can contribute to cataract development include:
- certain drugs, such as corticosteroids and chlorpromazine
- ultraviolet radiation
- nutritional deficiencies
- family history
Risk factors for glaucoma
In addition to age, other factors that may increase the risk of glaucoma include:
- family history
- certain medical conditions, such as:
- physical injuries to the eye
At present, surgery is the only treatment option to remove cataracts. However, a person may not always require surgery.
Treatment options for glaucoma aim to improve fluid flow from the eye and reduce fluid production. These
- Medications: A doctor may prescribe eye drops to help lower the pressure in the eye and prevent damage to the optic nerve.
- Laser treatment: An eye doctor uses lasers to help fluid drain out of the eye to lower eye pressure.
- Surgery: If medications and lasers are ineffective, a doctor may suggest laser eye surgery. Several different options can help to drain fluid out of the eye.
Sometimes, if a person has both glaucoma and cataracts, a doctor can use surgery to treat both conditions simultaneously.
However, combination surgeries are available to treat both conditions at the same time. While performing cataract surgery, a surgeon may perform a trabeculectomy (pronounced: tra-BECK-yoo-LECK-toh-mee) or shunt procedure to relieve pressure in the eye.
According to the
Similarly, during a shunt procedure, a surgeon places a tiny plastic tube under the membrane that covers the white of the eye to drain fluid and lower eye pressure.
Surgeons can also use newer techniques that are less invasive. Although these procedures also involve removing the cataract and draining fluid from the eye, they may not lower eye pressure enough. This means a person may still require some glaucoma medications.
Some common questions about cataracts and glaucoma may include the following:
Can glaucoma and cataracts co-occur?
Yes, a person can have both cataracts and glaucoma at the same time. They are two of the most common eye problems and become more widespread as people get older. As such, many people with cataracts also have glaucoma.
Can cataracts be removed if you have glaucoma?
- cataract surgery and trabeculectomy
- cataract surgery and glaucoma shunt procedures
- minimally invasive glaucoma surgeries (MIGS)
Cataracts and glaucoma are both eye conditions that become more common in older age. While the conditions do not typically cause the other, they share similar risk factors, and having one may also increase the risk of developing the other.
Treatment for both conditions can involve surgery. In some cases, a doctor can perform combination surgery and treat both conditions at the same time.