Glaucoma Vs Cataracts

The difference between glaucoma and cataracts

Glaucoma and cataracts are degenerative eye diseases that can lead to a permanent loss of vision if not early detected and treated. Both diseases are a natural part of the aging process, even though they have different symptoms. If a person finds his or her vision isn't as sharp as it used to be, chances are, they might have either a cataract or glaucoma.

Below is a summary of each eye disorder, their distinct symptoms, and the differences between both diseases.

Cataracts

A cataract is a clouding that blocks or covers the lens of the eye, which prevents any entry of light from reaching the eye. The lens itself is made of protein, but sometimes due to aging factors, the protein starts to clump and thus blocks any light from passing through efficiently. New cells also start forming on the outside area of the lens, while the old cells are pushed toward the centre—and hence, results in cataract.

The most common symptoms of cataracts include double vision, a discolored pupil that can appear gray or white in some patients, and appearance of halos around lights. Some people may change the way they perceive colors because the distorted lens acts like a filter.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is among the fatal eye diseases that destroy the optic nerve because of the pressure buildup on the inside part of the eye. The optic nerve primary function is to send images to the brain. Therefore, if the pressure within isn't alleviated, a substantial optic nerve damage follows suit and a patient can experience permanent blindness.

There are two kinds of glaucoma—closed-angle glaucoma and open-angle glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common among many patients. The first sign a patient may experience from this type of glaucoma is a loss of peripheral vision. This symptom emerges in stages and can go unnoticed without any treatment.

On the other hand, closed-angle glaucoma occurs rapidly in a patient due to the increasing pressure buildup on the optic nerve and immediate medical help should be provided.

Also worth knowing is that some people do not show any symptoms of glaucoma in the early stages. Nevertheless, some of the most common signs and symptoms of glaucoma are vision loss, redness in the eye, pain in the eye, tunnel vision, and nausea or vomiting.

Glaucoma and Cataracts

Both glaucoma and cataracts are eye conditions that cause loss of vision. Cataracts occur in stages, are painless, and patients may experience a loss of transparency from their vision. On the other hand, the occurrence of glaucoma can be either slow and subtle or quick and painful.

A cataract is a small change in the eye's lens, which results in cloud formation, the mechanism which prevents light from entering the eye properly. Glaucoma is a condition in which pressure builds in the eye, which leads to damage of the optic nerve. This nerve links the eye and brain together and helps it process visual information.

It's unlikely for cataracts to cause acute blindness, but in cases of glaucoma, blindness is usually irreversible and should be treated right away. Moreover, patients with diabetes are at a greater risk of contracting glaucoma. And many times, it usually affects both eyes and may appear much more severe in one eye than the other.

Both glaucoma and cataracts can be surgically treated, although vision loss from glaucoma is irreversible. All the same, when cataracts start having a detrimental impact on everyday life, it's important to remove them through surgery.

Glaucoma symptoms are usually different. They can appear suddenly and cause rapid loss of sight accompanied by acute pain, blurred vision, and nausea discomfort.

Cataract surgery varies greatly from the surgery used to treat glaucoma. In cataracts surgery, the eye's lens is usually removed and fixed with an artificial lens. Glaucoma surgery frequently involves the use of a laser, a device that's used to open the tiny canals which appear blocked.

This stops the fluid from escaping through the front part of the eye. And if the eye is properly treated, the results acquired after treatment can be life-changing.

Early diagnosis and intervention

Lastly, cataracts don't require any degree of urgency, but with glaucoma, early diagnosis and intervention are critical.

Glaucoma and cataracts are two different eye abnormalities that alienate many people's lives every day. People who frequently experience changes in vision should schedule an appointment with their ophthalmologist. Many times, cataract surgery plays a great role in recovering a patient's lost sight. Glaucoma is also treatable, but vision loss from the disease is permanent.

To maintain a healthy and sharp eye vision, it's important for people to have their eyes checked for the presence of glaucoma or cataracts every two years. Being aware of the signs and symptoms of each eye disorder can help a patient make wise decisions about their eye health.

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Last Reviewed:
June 22, 2017
Last Updated:
October 12, 2017
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