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The Differences Between Glaucoma and Cataracts

If you’ve heard about glaucoma and cataracts, you might have some questions. At first glance, these two conditions can seem pretty similar. In reality, though, there are some key differences between them. Here’s an overview.


There are several types of glaucoma, but the most common type of glaucoma by far is primary open-angle glaucoma. Primary open-angle glaucoma happens gradually as a result of the eye failing to drain fluid as well as it should. The pressure builds over time and the optic nerve gets damaged. It's painless and doesn't affect vision at first, but a patient will start to develop blind spots and could eventually go blind if left undiagnosed and untreated.

Another type of glaucoma, called narrow-angle glaucoma, happens when a person's iris is anatomically close to the drainage angle in their eye. If the angle suddenly becomes blocked, this makes the eye pressure build up very rapidly, and is a real eye emergency. If you experience symptoms like sudden blurriness, extreme eye pain, a headache, feel nauseous and/or vomit, or see rainbow-colored halos around lights - contact your eye doctor immediately.

Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness for people older than 60 years old, but early treatment is often enough to prevent such an outcome.


Cataracts are different, as they have nothing to do with the eyes’ drainage system. They are a clouding of the eye’s lens, and most commonly caused by age. Common symptoms of cataracts include blurry vision, ghosting or double vision, increased glare at night or facing the sun during the day, poor night vision in general and seeing bright colors. While untreated cataracts are also a leading cause of blindness, they can be removed by cataract surgery and eliminated with early treatment.

Glaucoma and cataracts are very different, although both are more prevalent as you age and both can lead to blindness. The two have one more key aspect in common, though - they’re both able to be diagnosed early in regular eye exams, increasing the success rate of treatment and prevention of blindness.

We invite you to contact us today to schedule an eye exam, or to learn more about Phoenix glaucoma treatment or Phoenix cataract surgery