Many people nowadays suffer eye disorders at one time or another. It could either be minor and go away on their own or is treatable at home. But there are also eye problems that need a specialist's care. Common eye problems include cataracts and glaucoma that are often mistaken for one another.

So, how do the two of them differ in terms of symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis and treatment, and prevention? Read below to know the answers to those questions.

Cataracts and Glaucoma: Definition

Eyes have a clear lens that allows the light to enter, so images are projected onto the retina at the back of the eye. But proteins in the lens could break down and stick together to form a whitish, yellow, or brown clump that blocks or distorts the vision. These cloud-like structures in the eyes are called cataracts.

Cataracts are also the most common cause of vision loss globally, with over half of the population of 80 years old and above in the US suffering from it or had cataract surgery in the past, according to the National Eye Institute.

On the other hand, a person can have glaucoma due to too much pressure inside the eye. When the eye's aqueous humor is filled with water, pressure can build up inside the eye. According to Healthline, if it is not relieved, it can cause permanent damage to the optic nerve's fibers, which then leads to vision loss.

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It takes time for a cataract to show symptoms. Eventually, the person with the condition would experience double and blurred vision, poor night vision, extra sensitivity to the light, pale or faded colors, and frequent prescription eyewear changes.

Meanwhile, symptoms of glaucoma may not be noticeable at first as it sometimes could build slowly. But the first symptom the person would experience is the loss of peripheral vision or the ability to see outside the field of vision.

In closed-angle glaucoma, its symptoms might be sudden like eye pain, redness of the eye, or it could also feel firm to the touch. Some might also experience nausea, blurriness of vision, and halos of light glowing around on objects. It is advisable to seek professional help if someone experiences these symptoms immediately.

Risk Factors

There are cases when people are born with cataracts due to an infection inside the uterus. There are also cases when children can have cataracts, although this could be rare. But cataracts can also form after an injury or eye surgery.

Most cataract cases happen because of the eye changes that occur as a person gets older, especially those at around age 40, in which they have a 2.5% chance of developing eye condition. By the age of 79, this possibility could jump to 49%.

Some of the risk factors that can increase the risk of developing cataracts are high blood pressure, excessive sun exposure, excessive alcohol use, long-term-steroid use, diabetes, smoking, and obesity.

On the other hand, the risk of having glaucoma increases as the person reaches 60. According to Healthline, those with African American or Latino heritage are more likely to develop open-angle glaucoma. At the same time, women in Southeast Asia or Native Alaskan heritage have a higher risk of closed-angle glaucoma.

But of course, both eye disorders are more likely to occur to those who have immediate family members with eye conditions.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Both cataracts and glaucoma can be detected during a routine eye exam. The doctors would place eyedrops to dilate the pupil so that doctors can see any cataracts on the lens or test the pressure in the eye. Both procedures are painless.

Minor cataracts are often treated with eyeglass prescription changes, but the advanced cases are usually treated with a surgery that mostly delivers good results.

Doctors would first recommend eye drops for glaucoma, but if it does not work effectively, the ophthalmologist might perform laser surgery to help drain the eye fluid. In some cases, surgery might be necessary to create tiny openings for drainage, or a tube might be inserted to let the fluid flow out.

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