Cataracts and glaucoma are common eye conditions that develop as a natural result of aging. It isn’t unheard of to have glaucoma and cataracts at the same time. While managing the symptoms of two eye diseases may seem difficult, treatment for cataracts and glaucoma can help prolong your vision and prevent permanent blindness.
Keep reading to learn more about cataracts and glaucoma, the effects of each eye condition, and when to pursue treatment.
Cataracts develop gradually and affect vision at a slow pace. While it can take years for cataracts to impact your eyesight, it’s still important to schedule regular eye exams to monitor their progression. Once cataracts start to affect your quality of life, such as interfering with reading, driving, or recognizing faces, your eye doctor may recommend cataract surgery. Cataract removal is the only effective way to “cure” cataracts.
By contrast, glaucoma can progress very quickly and cause damage to the optic nerve, the part of the eye that sends visual information to the brain. If left untreated, glaucoma can cause irreversible vision loss and/or permanent blindness.
Once identified, glaucoma needs to be treated right away. Glaucoma treatment typically involves the use of prescription medication or laser treatments to lower the pressure in your eye and prevent further damage to the optic nerve. Depending on the severity of the disease, some glaucoma patients may require surgical intervention.
Glaucoma Surgery Options
Glaucoma cannot be cured, but there are several forms of glaucoma surgery that can significantly slow the progression of the disease and reduce the risk of permanent blindness. A trabeculectomy can be performed to drain the excess fluids in the eye and relieve pressure. Tube shunts, which are a drainage device implanted in the eye, can also be used along with a trabeculectomy.
There’s also a new type of treatment offered for glaucoma: Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgery, or MIGS. MIGS includes several procedures that involve making a small incision to implant a stent, a tiny device that results in better eye fluid drainage and lower eye pressure levels.
Cataract Surgery for People with Glaucoma
Cataract surgery involves the removal of the cataract along with the entire natural lens. The lens is then replaced with an intraocular lens (IOL). Cataract surgery is usually recommended only when your cataracts are bad enough that they affect your ability to perform everyday tasks. But if you have cataracts and glaucoma, you can have surgeries for them at the same time.
During cataract surgery, a small incision is made to insert a device and break up the cataract before having the pieces removed with a vacuum. This small incision can also be used for MIGS. A stent can be inserted through the same incision used for cataract surgery.
This is a great option for people who have cataracts and glaucoma and want to treat both of them at once. You can use medication to keep your glaucoma under control and still have cataract surgery, but many find it advantageous to have cataract surgery and glaucoma surgery at the same time. It often means you won’t have to have more than one surgery — if you have cataract surgery and later need glaucoma surgery because the eye drops aren’t as effective, you’ll end up having to get surgery at least twice, which can increase the risk of complications.
Cataract Surgery, Glaucoma Surgery, Boston and South Shore
If you or a loved one are considering cataract removal or glaucoma surgery, Nielsen Eye Center has a dedicated team of ophthalmology specialists on staff to answer your questions. Schedule an appointment for a free consultation at one of our clinics in Quincy, Norwell, Weymouth, or Norwood, Massachusetts to speak to an eye care professional today!