Difference Between Glaucoma and Cataract

Glaucoma and cataract are two different chronic diseases that affect the eye and its connecting parts.

Given it is a chronic condition, early detection is needed to give the patients the right treatment and prevent the eventual path to blindness.

It’s necessary to have good optic health and checkups to ensure that such diseases are kept at bay.

Glaucoma vs Cataract

The main difference between glaucoma and cataract is that while glaucoma involves pressure gradients in the fluid within the eye that causes problems to the optic nerve, cataract is about the accumulation of proteins and clouding the lens thereby leading to vision loss. The two have different points of cure and surgery and may take some time to be noticed. 

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Glaucoma is a chronic optical disease that arises due to a massive increase in the aqueous fluid present in the aqueous chamber of the eye. Like everything else, an increase in fluid causes a build-up in the pressure of the container the fluid is in. In the case of the eye, the increase of aqueous fluid increases the pressure on the walls of the that including the retina and optic nerve. 

A cataract is commonly associated with aged people. But that doesn’t mean it can’t occur in the eyes of younger people. The protein synthesized in the lens tends to accumulate instead of being eliminated in the usual manner causing the protein to create layers on the lens thereby blocking a passage of light to the retina. This results in the loss of vision completely or having double vision. 

Comparison Table Between Glaucoma and Cataract

Parameters of ComparisonGlaucomaCataract
Loss of EyesightYes, if not treated at the correct timeNo, can always be fixed with surgery
Sees an Increase of?Optical fluidProteins
Site of ActionAqueous chamberOptic lens
SymptomsEye pain, redness, nauseaCloudy vision, double vision
Genetically InheritedCould beDoes not have a probability to inherited

What is Glaucoma? 

Glaucoma is a disease that concerns the eye and relates to pressure changes in it. 

There are fluids in the eye that helps in the transfer of light rays and help in the shock absorption property of the eye. 

The aqueous chamber of the eye is filled with the aqueous humor that is the fluid in the anterior part of the lens. 

As the fluid increases, and if the eye loses the ability to drain out the present fluid methodically, then it leads to accumulation. 

This accumulation of aqueous humor leads to a build-up of pressure in the surrounding walls of the eye. 

When the eye can’t release the excess fluid, the increase in pressure on the optic nerve due to the surrounding medium is called intraocular pressure. 

The pressure tends to create a block in the optic nerve that transmits the images to the brain for decoding. 

Eventually, a patient might have slight symptoms that might not correlate to glaucoma. 

Symptoms include blurry vision, nausea, redness in the eye, and a bulging sensation in the eye. 

If the eyesight of a patient is lost completely due to glaucoma, there are no probabilities to bring it back. 

In the case of glaucoma, at the last stages of the disease, vision could be considered permanently lost. 

As a patient reaches the end stages of this chronic disorder, there is no permanent cure that has been discovered as of now. 

Glaucoma can be considered genetically inherited through generations of a family. 

But it is not always inherited from parent to child or from grandparents to grandkids. 

It could be acquired in the lifetime of a person due to lifestyle activities like greater time spent in front of a screen like laptops etc. 

In a study, it could be figured that almost 15% of people with glaucoma tend to lose their eyesight completely. 

Some surgeries help in draining out the extra fluid. This can only be possible in the early stages of glaucoma. 

Later on, surgeries can’t help someone who has already lost their vision. Blindness is permanent in such cases. 

What is Cataract? 

A cataract is usually seen in older people who have a lower ability to use up the synthesized body proteins. 

The optic lens creates proteins that are needed to carry out its functions. 

At a point, the optic lens can’t use the proteins in their designated form and the proteins accumulate on the surface of the lens. 

This accumulation of proteins is what leads to cataracts.

Such protein accumulation leads to a white, yellow, or brown-like layer that gives a cloudy vision to the patient. 

Symptoms of cataracts include cloudy vision, lack of vision at night, double visions, etc. 

Surgeries are a safe option in case of cataracts as they have been proved to be 100% successful. 

Cataracts won’t lead to a permanent loss of vision as surgeries are a sure option to clear the issue posed by the optic lens. 

During the surgery, the protein accumulated lens is removed and either an artificial or a donors lens is taken to replace the original lens. 

Usually, artificial lenses are used as donor lenses need to be compatible with the receiver and such have chances of infection. 

Over 46% of older citizens in the world are cataracts ridden and the number keeps increasing over the years. 

It’s rare for younger people to have cataracts as their protein metabolism remains intact. 

But there are cases of youngsters coming in with cataract-like symptoms that have been persisting for some time. 

Main Differences Between Glaucoma and Cataract 

  1. While glaucoma is a disease related to eye pressure and the optic nerve, cataract is related to protein accumulation and optic lens. 
  2. Cataract surgeries are a pretty effective cure to the disease while surgeries done for glaucoma only extend the eyesight period. 
  3. Permanent vision loss is a huge possibility in the case of glaucoma due to ineffective treatments that have been found so far but in the case of cataracts, due to effective surgery and medical assistance, permanent blindness is not a surety. 
  4. Cataract set in during old age and is rare in youngsters but glaucoma has no age and can happen to anyone. 
  5. While cataract surgery removes the lens and replaces it glaucoma surgery can help create a passage for drainage of excess fluid. 

Conclusion

Both glaucoma and cataract are not predictable unless there is a genetic factor to them. 

There are cases where people can have both at the same time and increase the probability of permanent blindness. 

Sometimes after cataract surgery, glaucoma can develop in people as a result of lens change. 

In those cases where an individual has both chronic disorders, the first correction surgery would be of glaucoma as it’s more serious. 

Later on, given a period of 2 or more years, cataract surgery could be done thereby giving total optic relief to the patient. 

Both have probabilities to lead to total loss of vision or blindness. 

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2486713/
  2. https://www.bmj.com/content/333/7559/128.short
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