Will Cataract Surgery Affect Glaucoma?

Smiling man with his wife in the backgroundIt is entirely possible for cataracts and glaucoma to co-exist — cataracts affect the lens and glaucoma affects the optic nerve. But because they affect different parts of the eye, they are managed quite differently.

A patient that suffers from glaucoma and cataracts may want to know how having cataract surgery can affect glaucoma. The team at Bochner Eye Institute answers that question in this post.

Understanding Cataracts and Glaucoma

A cataract is the natural clouding of the eye’s lens; to treat cataracts, surgeons must remove the natural lens and replace it with an artificial lens implant that restores clear vision.

Glaucoma occurs when fluid that is continually being produced inside the eye cannot properly drain from the eye. As a result, the pressure inside the eye rises to dangerous levels and can damage the optic nerve in the back of the eye that transmits information to the brain. Unfortunately, eye surgeons cannot remove and replace the optic nerve like they can the eye’s lens. Glaucoma must be managed by lowering intraocular pressure with medication, laser treatment or traditional surgery.

There are a number of ways to help patients with concurrent cataracts and glaucoma. If the cataracts are not yet interfering with vision, doctors usually focus on managing glaucoma with medication and/or laser treatment while closely monitoring the progression of the cataracts.

Cataract Surgery May Improve Glaucoma

For patients whose cataracts are interfering with vision, cataract surgeons may be able to surgically remove the cataracts without elevating intraocular pressure. In some cases, cataract surgery alone may lower intraocular pressure and even reduce or eliminate the need for glaucoma medication altogether. This can happen in patients that have narrow angles (the drainage channels that control the outflow of fluid). If the cataract has become so large that it crowds the other structures in the eye, including the drainage angle, simply removing the cataract may open the drainage angle, thus reducing intraocular pressure.

Another option for patients whose cataracts are interfering with vision is a combination procedure that removes the cataracts and addresses glaucoma — perhaps by creating a small opening in the eye or placing a device to improve the outflow of fluid. Newer micro-invasive glaucoma surgeries (MIGS) may be performed through the same incision through which the cataract is removed.

No two patients are treated exactly alike. Good ophthalmologists tailor treatment to the individual eye to maximize the benefits and minimize the risks. Deciding how to treat cataracts and glaucoma depends on the severity of both conditions, the type of glaucoma and other factors.

If you have been diagnosed with co-existing cataracts and glaucoma and would like to discuss your treatment options with our trusted team, please call or email Bochner Eye Institute today.