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Glaucoma vs. Cataracts: Know the Difference

Glaucoma vs. Cataracts: Know the Difference

Feb. 16th, 2024

Have you noticed a change in your vision recently? Perhaps it isn’t as sharp as before, or you’ve noticed that words and objects tend to be blurry.

Cataracts and Glaucoma are the leading causes of blindness. It is estimated that approximately 20.4 million people over the age of 40 are affected by cataracts, while the CDC estimates that 3 million Americans have glaucoma.1,2

But how do you know if you have cataracts or glaucoma? Here are the differences.


Glaucoma is a condition that directly affects the eye’s optic nerve, usually caused by high pressure in the eye.

Usually, this eye pressure is caused by a fluid known as aqueous humor. This fluid backs up and is unable to be drained out of the eye, causing pressure known as intraocular pressure.3 This pressure will cause glaucoma.

There are a few different types of glaucoma:4

  • Open-angle glaucoma. The most common type of glaucoma. Symptoms of open-angle glaucoma tend to occur over time. As the pressure in the eye damages the optic nerve, there will be blind spots in your vision. This can happen in one or both of your eyes.
  • Angle-closure glaucoma, also called closed-angle glaucoma. Occurs when the iris blocks off the eye’s drainage system. This can happen suddenly, and eye pressure can increase rapidly. People who have angle-closure glaucoma are at risk of getting it in the second eye. It is usually caused by dilating drops or medications.
  • Congenital glaucoma. This type of glaucoma occurs in babies. Their eyes will not develop properly with drainage canals, causing congenital glaucoma. This condition typically runs in families.
  • Secondary glaucoma. This type of glaucoma will have a known cause. Both open and angle closure glaucoma have the potential to become secondary glaucoma. It can occur alongside eye injuries, as well as diseases such as diabetes, medicines, and eye diseases.

Symptoms of Glaucoma

While you may not always know if you have glaucoma, some known symptoms include:5

  • Eye pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Seeing rings around lights
  • Headaches
  • Red eye
  • Tenderness around the eye

The earlier you catch glaucoma, the better. The longer glaucoma goes untreated, the more damage to your vision it can cause. Many times, this damage cannot be reversed.


A cataract is a clouding on the lens of the eye. People who have cataracts will often describe their vision as looking through a frosty window.

There are a few different types of cataracts:6

  • Nuclear cataracts: cataracts that affect the center lens. Objects that are far away will appear blurry. Over time, the lens of the eye will turn yellow or brown, which will fade your vision.
  • Cortical cataracts: cataracts that affect the edge of the lens. Usually a cortical cataract begins as a white wedge-shape spot or streak. The streaks will grow as the cataract worsens and affect how the light passes through the lens
  • Posterior subcapsular cataracts. A cataract that begins in the back of the lens and covers the path of light. Posterior subcapsular cataracts often affect reading vision, as well as the ability to see in bright light.
  • Congenital cataracts. Congenital cataracts occur in people who are born with them or develop this condition at a young age. They can also occur in individuals with myotonic dystrophy, galactosemia, neurofibromatosis type 2, or rubella. Congenital cataracts don’t always affect vision.

Symptoms of Cataracts

People who have cataracts will typically have trouble performing everyday tasks such as reading or driving. Some symptoms of cataracts include:7

  • Blurred vision
  • Clouded vision
  • Dim vision
  • Sensitivity to light/glare
  • Seeing “halos” around lights
  • Needing bright light for reading and other activities
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • Frequent changes in prescriptions
  • Faded/yellow colors
  • Double vision in an eye

Cataract surgery can be performed in some cases to fix the issues caused by cataracts.

Cataracts vs Glaucoma

Both cataracts and glaucoma affect your vision and can impact your daily life. They can both cause blurriness, and if left untreated, they can cause you to develop blindness.

It’s also important to note that although rare, it is a possibility to have cataracts and glaucoma at the same time.

There are some differences between glaucoma and cataracts. They are:

  • Glaucoma affects the optic nerve, while cataracts affect the lens
  • Cataracts can be removed via surgery, vision loss cannot be corrected in glaucoma cases
  • Cataracts develop over time, without pain; glaucoma can happen suddenly and without warning, and will often be painful.

When to See a Doctor

If you notice a change in your vision, you should immediately schedule an appointment with an eye professional. Your eye doctor will be able to give you guidance on your vision changes, as well as prescribe any treatment options that may be necessary.

It’s important to note that the sooner you visit an eye doctor, the more they can help you. Catching an early case of glaucoma or cataracts can help a doctor give you the tools necessary to keep your vision healthy for as long as possible.

About Saber Healthcare Group

Saber Healthcare is an organization that provides services to more than 130 buildings across the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana, and Delaware. To learn more about our company and services, click here.

Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long-term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.


  1. “A Brief Look at Cataract Statistics.” Ophthalmology Physicians & Surgeons. Accessed 2 February 2024. Link:
  2. “Don't Let Glaucoma Steal Your Sight!” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 24 November 2020. Accessed 2 February 2024. Link:,3%20million%20Americans%20have%20glaucoma.
  3. “Glaucoma: Symptoms and Treatment.” Saber Healthcare Group. 7 January 2022. Accessed 2 February 2024. Link:
  4. “Glaucoma.” Medline Plus. 2 February 2024. Link:
  5. “Glaucoma.” NHS. 26 February 2021. 2 February 2024. Link:
  6. “Cataracts.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). 2 February 2024. Link:
  7. “What Are the Causes and Symptoms of Cataracts?” Saber Healthcare Group. 12 June 2023. Accessed 2 February 2024. Link: