Utah Eye Associates

What’s the Difference Between Glaucoma and Cataracts?

By Dr. David Masihdas on June 03, 2021

Seeing a tree with diminished vision qualityGlaucoma and cataracts are chronic eye conditions that gradually cause vision loss. These two eye disorders have different causes. Glaucoma typically involves high pressure inside the eye, while cataracts involve clouding of the naturally clear lens of the eye.

If your vision is starting to change, Dr. David Masihdas’ skilled ophthalmology team in Salt Lake City, UT, can help you understand the reason why. Let’s compare glaucoma and cataracts in more detail below so you understand the differences, warning signs to look out for, and what treatment options are available.


Glaucoma refers to a group of conditions that damages the optic nerve. When vitreous fluid builds up in the eye, this causes increased intraocular pressure.

Typical symptoms of glaucoma include:

  • Blind patches in the central or peripheral vision (often in both eyes)
  • Discomfort
  • Queasiness and/or vomiting
  • Severe headaches or migraines

People over 60 who have an immediate family member with glaucoma are more at risk of developing the condition.

Types of Glaucoma

There are many types of glaucoma, but the most common types are primary open-angle and closed-angle.

  • Primary open-angle is the most common type of glaucoma. It develops slowly and doesn’t have noticeable early warning signs. This is why regular vision exams are so important.
  • Closed-angle glaucoma is more likely to present sudden, severe symptoms, including intense eye pain, redness, and nausea. Your vision may be blurry and you may see halos with closed-angle glaucoma. If you believe that you are suffering from closed-angle glaucoma, it’s crucial to seek medical care as soon as possible.

Treatments for Glaucoma

Glaucoma is incurable, but there is help. Once glaucoma is diagnosed, the mission is to prevent further vision loss. Currently, there are three methods to relieve intraocular pressure:

  • Medication
  • Laser therapy
  • Eye surgery


Cataracts are a common cause of impaired vision in the elderly. As people age, the proteins in their eyes degenerate and clump together, clouding up the naturally clear lens.

Cataracts progress gradually. The types of symptoms you have will depend on the severity of the cataracts. Some common indications of cataracts are:

  • Frequent changes in vision prescription
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Faded colors
  • Poor night vision

Treatment for Cataracts

In early stages, cataracts do not need to be removed or treated. Changing your lifestyle, updating your vision prescription, and using assistive devices for vision may be sufficient. For more advanced cataracts, surgery is required to remove the clouded lens of the eye. An intraocular lens (IOL) can be used to replace the natural lens of the eye.

How Glaucoma and Cataracts Connect

Glaucoma and cataracts are separate conditions, but they may be connected. Patients can simultaneously suffer glaucoma and cataracts. Sometimes, a large cataract can block the eye’s drainage system. Without treatment, this can lead to glaucoma. It is also common for cataracts to form after glaucoma surgery.

This connection between these vision problems are why it’s so important visit our Salt Lake City vision center if you experience any symptoms listed above.

Schedule a Vision Appointment

Both glaucoma and cataracts are serious vision conditions that affect day-to-day life. If you or a loved one believe that you are suffering from glaucoma or cataracts, message us online. You can also call us at (801) 363-2851 to schedule an eye exam with Dr. Masihdas in Salt Lake City.

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Salt Lake City Office

150 S 1000 E
Ste 100
Salt Lake City, UT 84102

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