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  • Prairie Eye Care

Distinguishing Between Glaucoma and Cataracts: Symptoms and Treatment

Glaucoma and cataracts are both eye conditions that can lead to vision loss. Glaucoma and cataracts are two of the most common vision-threatening conditions, and are both leading causes of blindness around the world. People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing both conditions. Although glaucoma and cataracts share some similar symptoms and risk factors, they affect different parts of the eye and have different treatments.

Let's take a look at both glaucoma and cataracts, including the symptoms and treatment options for both conditions.  


Glaucoma is a progressive disease that damages the optic nerve at the back of the eye. This happens when fluid builds up and causes an increase in eye pressure, known as intraocular pressure (IOP). This pressure damages the nerve fibres at the back of the eye that attach the retina to the brain. The optic nerve is what carries visual messages from the eye to the brain, allowing us to see. When damage to this nerve occurs, it can lead to vision loss and eventually blindness. There are a few different types of glaucoma, including open-angle glaucoma and closed-angle glaucoma.  


Symptoms of glaucoma do not always present themselves in the early stages. Often, there may be no symptoms until the condition has become advanced, which is why regular comprehensive eye exams are so important. Some symptoms that may gradually present themselves include:

-blurry vision

-patchy spots in your peripheral vision

-gradual vision loss



Damage to the eyes caused by glaucoma cannot be reversed and it's not always possible to fully stop the progression of the disease. Fortunately, it can usually be slowed with proper treatment. Treatment options for glaucoma depend on the specific case and how developed the condition is. Some possible treatments include:

-prescription eye drops

-oral medication


-laser treatment


Cataracts are a common eye condition that occurs when the lens inside your eye becomes clouded with proteins, affecting your ability to see. This lens allows light to enter the eye and project images to the retina. Cataracts are often formed due to aging but can also be the result of an injury to the eye.  


Symptoms of cataracts usually develop gradually over time and can include:

-cloudy or blurred vision

-double vision

-sensitivity to light

-poor night vision

-changes in colour vision such as seeing colours as pale or faded

-frequent changes to your glasses prescriptions


When left untreated, cataracts can lead to vision loss and eventually blindness. If a change in your prescription glasses isn't helping to correct your vision, cataracts might need to be removed surgically. During surgery, the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial one. This is a common procedure and most patients experience a big improvement in their eyesight.  

Both glaucoma and cataracts are common physical conditions that can lead to vision loss and blindness. Fortunately, they are both treatable. Particularly for glaucoma, early detection is key to successful treatment and slowing the progression of the disease. Since symptoms don't always present themselves right away, often the only way to diagnose these conditions is by scheduling regular comprehensive eye exams with your optometrist. At Prairie Eye Care, we screen for glaucoma and cataracts during every comprehensive eye exam. Contact us to book your appointment today!

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