Cataract Surgery and Glaucoma

Cataracts and glaucoma are two quite different vision problems. Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s lens and glaucoma involves damage to the optic nerve, usually related to elevated intraocular pressure.

However, they are both age-related, and it is not uncommon for a person to gradually develop both conditions at about the same time (although glaucoma will often show up earlier than cataracts).

Glaucoma Treatment

Glaucoma cannot be cured but it can be managed. Typically, as soon as it is diagnosed, eyedrops are prescribed to reduce the elevated pressure inside the eye. If no treatment is done, that high pressure will gradually damage and destroy the optic nerve where it leaves the eye from the retina. Once those nerve fibers are destroyed, vision is permanently lost.

Another glaucoma treatment is using a laser to increase drainage of fluid from inside the eyes. The laser can either enlarge the existing drainage channels or create a new one in the iris, depending on which type of glaucoma the patient has.

Cataract Treatment With Glaucoma Treatment

If a glaucoma patient also develops cataracts, there are several options. Your eye surgeon will discuss them with you and determine which is the best one for you. Cataracts develop slowly and are usually monitored until the time comes when cataract surgery appears to be the best way to go.

  • While the cataracts are not interfering too much with your daily activities, the glaucoma can be treated and the cataracts monitored.
  • If the glaucoma is mild and stable, it can be treated either with eyedrops or drainage enlargement, and cataract surgery can be performed. In some cases it has been found that cataract surgery itself lowers the pressure inside the eye, which would relieve the glaucoma.
  • If the glaucoma is severe and cataract surgery is needed, your eye surgeon will determine whether a “combination procedure” would be appropriate. That would involve (a) using a laser to create a new drainage channel to treat the glaucoma; and (b) performing cataract surgery.

Each case is individual and your eye surgeon will discuss the various options with you.

If you have both cataracts and glaucoma and would like to know more about their relationship, please contact us for an experienced ophthalmologist near you.