What If You Have Cataracts And Glaucoma?

glaucoma and cataract surgery at the same time

Did you know you can have cataracts and glaucoma at the same time? If this happens, it’s important to see an eye doctor with experience treating both disorders.

Depending on the severity of your glaucoma or cataracts, you may need surgery to treat them. Keep reading to learn about these conditions and when it’s right to have combined glaucoma and cataract surgery!

What are Cataracts?

A cataract is the clouding of the natural lens of the eye. This is a process that happens naturally as a result of aging.

As we age, proteins inside of the lens begin to break down. In a healthy eye, these proteins are arranged in a very precise manner. This allows light to pass through them uninterrupted. When this pattern gets disrupted, light can no longer pass through.

Cataract development is usually a slow, gradual process. In its early stages, you will likely not even notice vision loss, but over time, you may notice symptoms like blurry vision, fading colors, double vision, glare, and difficulty seeing at night.

Recent innovations in technology have transformed cataract surgery into a very safe and effective treatment.

What is Glaucoma?

Like cataracts, glaucoma is also a slowly progressing condition that causes blindness. This is where the similarities between glaucoma and cataracts end. Unlike cataracts, glaucoma does not affect the lens, but rather the eye’s optic nerve.

There is a semi-complex system inside the eye. In this system, fluid-carrying nutrients are produced and are then allowed to drain out through a specific meshwork. If this meshwork becomes clogged or blocked, the pressure inside of the eye can begin to build up. As the pressure builds, it begins to damage the sensitive optic nerve.

The optic nerve handles carrying information from the eye to the brain. Any vision loss due to its damage is permanent. That means that if you lose vision because of glaucoma, it’s irreversible.

Glaucoma also has no noticeable symptoms until you’ve already lost vision. This is what makes frequent eye exams so important!

The only way to diagnose and treat glaucoma early on is with the help of an eye care professional. Treatment options include prescription eye drops and glaucoma surgery.

Why You Should or Shouldn’t Combine Surgeries

Surgery for glaucoma is not always necessary. In most cases, patients with glaucoma can manage their eye pressure using eye drops. If eye drops don’t help, or your eye pressure levels continue rising, surgery becomes necessary.

If you have cataracts and glaucoma, it may be possible to remove your cataract at the same time. In fact, in some cases removing the cataract may reduce eye pressure in its own right.

However, in other cases, glaucoma may weaken the interior structure of the eye. This can make cataract surgery more dangerous for a patient who also has glaucoma.

The only way to know for sure what the best option is to talk to your eye doctor. A comprehensive eye exam can help your doctor determine whether to remove your cataracts or if it’s better to wait.

Have cataracts and glaucoma? Looking for a second opinion? Schedule an appointment at Washington Eye Physicians & Surgeons in Washington, DC today!


Andrew G. Iwach, MD. “Cataract Surgery and Glaucoma”, Glaucoma Research Foundation