An Informational Guide To Know: Does Glaucoma Cause Cataracts?

As we age, our world is filled with health mysteries.

One of these is the connection between glaucoma and cataracts, which are two eye conditions that can cause vision problems.

The question is whether or not there is a causal link between the two conditions or if it’s just a coincidence.

Or does having one condition increase the risk of developing another?

Read on for more info about whether or not there’s a connection between these two conditions, as well as the risk factors and treatment options available for both.

What Is Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases often called the “silent thief” because it often causes no symptoms until significant damage has been done.

Typically, it results from the build-up of the aqueous fluids produced inside your eye.

This pressure can cause damage to the optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting information from your eye to your brain.

This damage can lead to severe vision loss and even blindness if left untreated.

There are two main types of glaucoma: open-angle and closed-angle.

As you get older, your risk for both types increases.

The most common kind of this eye condition, open-angle glaucoma, develops slowly over time and has few symptoms in the early stages.

On the other hand, Closed-angle glaucoma can develop quickly and cause a sudden increase in pressure within your eye.

It’s important to know the signs of both types and see an ophthalmologist regularly if you think you’re at risk.

Symptoms of Glaucoma

Glaucoma does not always have symptoms; however, there are several signs you may notice.

The most common signs include;

  • Blurred or double vision
  • Darkening in the peripheral (side) vision
  • Colored halos around lights
  • Eye pain or headache
  • Seeing “floaters” or tiny dots in your vision

If you notice these glaucoma symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Note that glaucoma treatment options available for this condition may vary depending on the severity of your condition.

For example, if you have mild glaucoma, you may only need to use eye drops to reduce intraocular pressure in your eye.

However, surgery may be necessary if your condition is more severe and does not respond well to medication or other treatment options.

Additionally, the doctor might suggest a microsurgical process for individuals who still require drainage even after performing laser procedures or inserting stents.

This surgery is performed using a specialized microscope to help create tiny openings in the drainage angle of your eye, allowing for fluid to flow out more quickly.

What Are Cataracts?

When light enters your eye, it travels through the pupil and the lens.

The lens is a clear structure inside your eye that helps to focus light onto the retina, which is located at the back of your eye.

As you get older, proteins in the lens can break down and clump together.

This can lead to a cloudy or blurry appearance in your vision.

These clumps are called cataracts, and they are the most common cause of vision loss around the world, according to the National Eye Institute.

Luckily, unlike glaucoma, vision loss due to cataracts is reversible through a surgical procedure called cataract extraction.

Symptoms of Cataracts

In the initial stages of cataracts, people might not have any symptoms.

However, as the disorder grows, you may experience:

  • Blurred vision
  • Halos around lights ( an appearance of bright colors as faded or yellow)
  • Double vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Difficulty seeing in low light or at night
  • Faded color
  • Frequent adjustments to your prescription needs

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should talk to your doctor immediately.

You can get the treatment done before cataracts start affecting your vision. 

Note that the symptoms you experience might depend on the cataract location on your lens.

For example, a cataract located at the center of your lens may cause more blurriness than one located toward the edge of your lens.

Are Cataracts and Glaucoma the Same Eye Disorder?

While both conditions are severe eye disorders that can lead to vision loss, they are actually two different conditions with different causes, treatments, and outcomes.

For instance, glaucoma is characterized by a buildup of intraocular pressure in the eye, damaging the optic nerve and leading to vision loss.

On the other hand, cataracts are a result of the natural aging process and are caused by the thickening and opacification of the eye’s lens.

Also, the outcome of these two conditions can be different.

While both glaucoma and cataracts are associated with progressive vision loss, this loss is permanent when caused by cataracts. Still, it may not necessarily lead to complete blindness in the case of glaucoma.

Additionally, while surgery for cataract removal is common, there isn’t a surgical option for glaucoma treatment.

However, there are a variety of non-surgical treatments available that can help manage the vision loss caused by glaucoma.

What are the Common Risk Factors of Glaucoma and Cataracts?

Some of the most common risk factors for developing glaucoma and cataracts include:

  • Increased age
  • Family history of either condition
  • Diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Injury to the eye or previous eye surgery
  • Long-term use of corticosteroid medications

When to Seek Treatment

It is always a good idea to have regular eye exams and screenings.

This allows your healthcare provider to detect any changes in vision early on, which is key with glaucoma or cataracts because they can cause permanent damage if left untreated.

The earlier treatment begins, the better chance there is of preserving your vision for a more extended period.

You should also consider seeking immediate medical attention if you experience any of these signs:

  • blurry vision
  • halos around lights
  • sudden vision loss
  • pain in or around the eye
  • eye redness

Cataracts and Glaucoma Affected Populations

The fact is, that cataracts and glaucoma are both conditions that can impact people of all races and ages. However, some populations may be more at-risk than others.

For example, both conditions are more common in older adults, and they worsen as we age.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 94 million people have vision problems due to cataracts globally, and glaucoma affects about seven million people.

Research by NEI found that the prevalence rates of these two conditions may also vary by race and gender.

In 2010, cataracts were the contributing cause of blindness among Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks in the U.S., while glaucoma was a leading or contributing cause of blindness for these groups and non-Hispanic whites.

For example, cataracts and glaucoma are more likely to occur among women. In 2010, 61 percent of Americans with both conditions were women; 39 percent were men.

Also, NEI reports that the prevalence rate for blindness due to cataracts and glaucoma is about four times higher in women than in men.

That’s a lot of people who are impacted by these conditions every day! But don’t worry – there is still hope.

Age Barriers for Treatment

Age is the most significant risk factor for developing both cataracts and glaucoma.

In fact, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI), one-third of adults aged 40 or older have either cataracts or early signs of cataract development in at least one eye.

However, while age is a preeminent risk factor for both conditions, there are ways eye doctors can utilize the latest advancements in cataract and glaucoma treatment to help manage your condition.

But, due to increasing age, some patients may find themselves ineligible for surgery.

For cataracts, advanced age is a key factor in determining whether or not you are a good candidate for surgery.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) guidelines state that individuals aged 80 and older should generally not undergo cataract surgery due to the increased risk of serious complications, such as cardiac arrest.

On top of this, patients aged 65 to 79 should be evaluated for surgery on a case-by-case basis due to their elevated risks for postoperative infection and dry eye symptoms.

For glaucoma treatment options like laser surgery, advanced age also creates greater risks for adverse events.

Although the exact cause is unknown, one laser surgery study shows that patients 70 or older are more likely to have complications during their procedure than younger individuals.

Therefore, it’s essential to talk with your eye doctor about whether cataract and glaucoma treatments can still be effective despite your age.

Cataracts Risk Factors

While cataract is considered an age-related condition, some people are born with it, and some develop it as they grow older.

Other risk factors that contribute to the development of cataracts in some people include:


People with diabetes cannot metabolize sugar in their bodies because they either do not make enough insulin or cells don’t respond properly when insulin is made available. 

As a result, blood glucose levels become elevated, and this can cause serious health problems over time if left untreated, including nerve damage and risks for developing cataracts. 

Research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shown that about 32.2% of people aged 45 and over who have diabetes are affected by cataracts compared to people without the condition.

As blood sugar levels increase and cells do not respond properly when insulin is made available, the eye’s lens begins to swell. 

Once this occurs, it is known as diabetic cataracts and can result in blurry vision or blindness if left untreated.


Obesity is linked to cataracts because the adipose tissues present when one is obese release leptin. 

Leptin is a hormone responsible for signaling the brain to stop eating, and it is also a source of oxidative stress. 

This means that when there is too much leptin in the body, it can cause damage to the eye’s lens.

This then leads to cataracts forming in the eyes. So, if you are obese, it is important to keep an eye on your vision and get regular checkups.

High Blood Pressure 

Increased blood pressure causes an elevation of inflammatory cytokines, which could cause structural changes of proteins in lens capsules. 

Additionally, it can increase C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a marker of inflammation. 

And since cataract is linked to intense systemic inflammation, it means high blood pressure is associated with cataract development due to an inflammatory mechanism.

Previous Eye Injury Or Inflammation

You may find that you are at an increased risk for developing cataracts if you have recently suffered from a previous eye injury or inflammation. 

If this is the case, then it’s important to follow your doctor’s guidance on monitoring regular check-ups with them to catch any potential problems early on.

Excessive Exposure To Sunlight 

While sunlight is a good source of vitamin D, too much exposure can cause some problems. 

In fact, UV rays from the sun have been shown to damage eyes, causing cataracts and other vision loss issues. 

Therefore, if your eyes are regularly over-exposed to sunlight, this could damage them in the long run.

This doesn’t mean you have to avoid the sun altogether, but it’s important to be mindful of how long you’re exposing your eyes to direct sunlight and make sure to wear sunglasses that protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.


Smoking has been linked to the deterioration of lens cells through oxidation, resulting in heavy metals like cadmium accumulation within the lens and eventual cataract formation. 

Although quitting smoking can be difficult, doing so may help protect your vision in the long run.

Also, if you are a smoker, it is important to be incredibly diligent about getting regular eye exams.

Previous Eye Surgery 

Past eye surgery can increase the risk of cataract development. 

The procedure can change your eye pressure and affect how well your eye heals from the surgery. 

However,  there is no evidence that cataracts develop after a routine eye exam or from having an intraocular lens implanted for refractive surgery.

Prolonged Use of Corticosteroid Medications 

Some medications used to treat eye problems, such as corticosteroids, can increase the risk of developing cataracts. 

This is because these medications can cause the lens of your eye to become more cloudy over time. 

If you are using any medications, especially corticosteroids, talk to your doctor about the possible risks of developing cataracts.

Drinking Excessive Amounts of Alcohol 

Conversely, excessive alcohol intake can lead to elevated levels of microsomal enzyme cytochrome CYP-450 in the liver, leading to the production of free radicals. 

These free radicals produced can cause oxidative damage to the lens proteins of the eyes, leading to cataract formation.

Vision Clouded by Cataracts

With some cases of cataracts, your vision may somewhat be fuzzy and no longer clear. This may occur when your clear lens becomes opaque, and the proteins in your eye begin to clump together and break down.

As these proteins break down and stick together, they form spots on your otherwise clear lens, which causes the cloudy vision you may be experiencing.

Each degree of cloudiness that occurs with cataracts varies from one individual to the next.

Cataracts vs Glaucoma

Unrelated Conditions

Both glaucoma and cataracts are the world’s leading causes of vision loss, and they both worsen with age.

However, the two conditions are unrelated to each other and have different causes.

Glaucoma results from increased pressure on the optic nerve, while cataracts are a cloudy film that forms over the eye lens.

Generally speaking, if you have one of these conditions, it does not mean you will automatically develop the other.

However, there’s also a good possibility that a glaucoma patient may get cataracts at some point, especially when they reach the age of 40 when cataracts typically develop.

Are They Related Conditions?

In some cases, the two conditions can coexist, but they are not caused by each other.

For example, cataracts can sometimes form after glaucoma surgery.

Similarly, if a large cataract blocks your eye’s natural drainage system, it can increase pressure on the optic nerve and lead to glaucoma.

However, in most cases, the two conditions are unrelated.

For these reasons, it’s important to see your doctor if you experience symptoms of either condition.

Blurry Vision

Having a blurry vision is a common symptom of both glaucoma and cataracts.

If you are experiencing blurry vision, it is important to see your eye doctor as soon as possible for an accurate diagnosis.

Optic Nerve

Generally, when people think of glaucoma, they think of high pressure in the eye.

The increased pressure damages the optic nerve over time and can lead to optic neuropathy and vision loss if not treated on time.

The optic nerve is the main connection between your eyes and brain, so it’s an important part of sight for everyone!

But optic nerve damage can also happen with low-pressure glaucoma — that is, optic nerve glaucoma.

It is also common for cataracts to cause optic nerve damage. This can happen when the proteins in the eye’s lens accumulate over time.

When this happens, they exert pressure on optic nerve fibers and begin to block light from reaching your retina.

As a result, you begin to have a cloudy vision and, over time, may lose your sight completely.

Medicine Cure Of Glaucoma and Cataracts

Even though there is no known glaucoma cure, it can be managed effectively through treatment.

Sometimes, doctors may use the same treatment options to manage glaucoma and help improve vision in patients with cataracts.

A cataract and glaucoma specialist may prescribe one or more of the following in response to the condition’s severity:

Eye Drops

The first treatment for both glaucoma and cataracts is typically eye drops.

Depending on the type of condition you have, there are a few different kinds of eye drops that your doctor might prescribe.

Glaucoma treatments focus on lowering the fluid buildup and pressure in your eye.

On the other hand, cataract treatments aim to keep proteins from building up on the lens of your eyes and changing their structure, which can cause vision problems.

Propine and Epinephrine

Both propine and epinephrine are used in glaucoma treatment to help block the flow of aqueous humor, which reduces pressure inside your eye.

However, propine and epinephrine are known to dilate pupils, which can cause an increase in glare for glaucoma patients with cataracts who use them.

The pupil is enlarged because these medications open up blood vessels that become constricted due to the high pressure in the eye.

If you are prescribed either of these medications, your doctor will likely monitor you closely for any changes in your vision.

Miotic Eye Drops

 Depending on the cause and severity of your glaucoma or cataract, your doctor may prescribe miotic eye drops.

Miotics are medication that causes the pupil to constrict, opening up the drainage angle and reducing pressure in the eye. 

They are usually used two, three, or four times per day.

However, miotics may worsen your already clouded vision by cataracts by shrinking your pupil, allowing less light to enter your eyes.

To combat this vision loss, doctors may prescribe a different type of medication.

These medications relieve glaucoma symptoms and reduce the risk for cataracts by strengthening the muscles around the lens. 

So, if you’re taking glaucoma medication and notice any of the symptoms associated with cataracts, be sure to talk to your doctor about treatment.


Glaucoma and cataracts are two different conditions, but they can lead to vision loss if left untreated. While both conditions can lead to blurry vision and other symptoms, vision loss from glaucoma is irreversible and cannot be restored. It is also possible for the two conditions to be discovered simultaneously, but they are not caused by each other. However, there are shared risk factors that one can lead to the other. In rare cases, glaucoma treatment may actually accelerate cataract development. So, it is important for people with either condition to have regular eye exams, especially if you are at risk for developing one disorder because of another.

We have briefly discussed how glaucoma and cataracts can impact your vision. However, if you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your ophthalmologist to get more information. They will be able to provide you with the best course of treatment for your individual situation. Thanks for reading!




Frequently Asked Questions

Does Cataract Removal Help Glaucoma?

Most definitely! The goal of cataract surgery is to improve vision and lower IOP. For many glaucoma patients, this is a successful outcome.

How Can You Tell The Difference Between Glaucoma And Cataracts?

Glaucoma is characterized by elevated eye pressure and can affect the optic nerve, whereas a clouding of the lens characterizes cataracts. 

Cataracts are painless and occur over time, whereas glaucoma is slow or fast, depending on type and severity.

Which Is More Serious: Glaucoma Or Cataract?

Both conditions can be serious. They are different conditions caused by different factors, but both can lead to vision loss if not treated.

How Can You Prevent Glaucoma And Cataracts?

Cataracts and glaucoma are more likely to occur with age, so maintaining good eye health with regular visits to your optometrist can help prevent and lower the risk of these conditions.

 It can’t hurt to eat a healthy diet and avoid overexposure to UV radiation, either.

Is There A Glaucoma Or Cataract Cure?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. 

Treatment for glaucoma and cataracts will vary depending on the individual’s situation. However, both conditions are treatable, and early detection is key.

If you have any other questions about glaucoma or cataracts, please don’t hesitate to ask your optometrist. 

They will answer all of your questions and help you maintain healthy eyes for life.

What Does Vision Look Like With Cataracts?

Vision with cataracts can be blurry, hazy, or foggy. 

Colors may also look different than they used to, and objects may be less clear. 

Cataracts usually develop over time, so most people don’t notice a change in their vision until the condition has progressed significantly.

What Does Vision Look Like With Glaucoma?

Vision with glaucoma is difficult to describe. 

You may experience distracting eye pain, headaches or migraines, and halos around lights that are particularly bothersome at night. 

Vision can be blurry if glaucoma has affected the optic nerve. Glaucoma typically affects peripheral vision before it also affects central vision.


Eric Gutenberg
Author: Eric Gutenberg

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