Cataracts and glaucoma are two common, but very different eye conditions. However, in some cases, cataract surgery can have positive impacts on eye pressure and help with the treatment of glaucoma. While lowering eye pressure is rarely a reason to have a cataract surgery, if the cataract needs to be extracted anyways, it can be a beneficial effect. Additionally, there are small procedures known as MIGS that can be performed in conjunction with cataract surgery to dramatically reduce eye pressure.
What is a Cataract?
The crystalline lens in the eye sits just behind the colored portion of the eye, the iris.
This lens is completely clear during youth, but with age, it can become cloudy or hazy.
This clouding or haze is due to a cataract formation. Most cataracts form due to normal age-related changes in the lens that are a result of UV exposure and loss of antioxidants within the lens.
An early cataract will not require any treatment as the vision is still adequate and no symptoms are present.
However, when the cataract progresses, it may require surgery to remove the crystalline lens from the cataract and replace it with an artificial lens.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a condition that affects the optic nerve due to high eye pressure. When the pressure inside of the eye is elevated for a long period of time, it can cause damage to the optic nerve in the back of the eye by applying force to the nerve fibers and result in loss of sensation and vision in areas.
Glaucoma is a very slowly progressive condition that does not usually cause any symptoms because any vision loss from glaucoma is in the peripheral part of the vision and occurs gradually.
The treatment for glaucoma centers around lowering the eye pressure to prevent any additional damage to the optic nerve and visual field.
Options to lower the eye pressure include eye drops, laser surgery, shunt surgery, or cataract surgery with or without MIGS.
How Can Cataract Surgery Lower Eye Pressure?
The eye pressure is determined by the rate at which the fluid can drain from the front of the eye.
Anything that can open the drainage area of the eye or clear the area of debris can increase the rate the fluid is able to drain. This will lower eye pressure.
A cataract can cause the lens to thicken and push forward against the iris, this can cause the drainage system to become narrow and limit the fluid that flows out.
When the cataract is extracted, it is replaced with a very thin artificial lens implant that will allow the drain to become open again.
Through this process, cataract surgery can lower eye pressure without any additional procedures.
What are MIGS and How Do They Work?
MIGS, or minimally invasive glaucoma surgeries, are small procedures that can be performed in addition to cataract surgery to impact the eye pressure more than cataract surgery alone.
These procedures are frequently microscopic shunts that allow fluid a clear passage out of the front of the eye.
Most MIGS procedures will be extremely effective and have a reduction in eye pressure of up to 30 percent.