What is the First Sign of Cataracts? (Explained with Examples)

Cataract is an eye condition where there is clouding of the lenses. They occur when proteins in the lenses get denatured, blocking light from entering the lens. This leads to blurred vision and double vision. Patients with early stage cataracts see tinges of yellow and/or brown at night or halos around lights. Cataract patients report sensitivity to bright lights.

Cataracts are a common issue among older adults. There are no early warning signs of cataracts. Regular eye exams from an ophthalmologist are crucial for older adults.

They develop slowly and don’t affect vision until later stages. Stronger lighting and glasses can help some people cope with them. Surgery is the only treatment option and is usually safe and effective.

What Are the Types of Cataract?

Nuclear cataracts cause more nearsightedness and vision can be improved with glasses to some extent in the earliest stages.

Cortical cataracts cause blurred vision more in the evening or dim-light conditions. In brighter light, the person sees better.

Posterior subcapsular cataracts start as small opacities that form on the posterior side of the lens. They obstruct the path of light and interfere with your reading vision, reduce your vision in bright lights and cause glare or halos around light at night. Anterior subcapsular cataracts also cause cloudy vision.

Congenital cataracts: Some people are born with these cataracts or develop them during childhood. These types of cataracts are genetic, or associated with intrauterine infections or traumas. They don’t always affect vision and are usually removed soon after detection.

Traumatic cataract is a result of blunt or penetrating eye injuries. It is usually non-progressive in nature.

How Cataracts Affect Your Vision

Light entering the eye normally travels down an optical path until it reaches the retina. Light passes through the cornea and pupil. It becomes focused by the crystalline lens onto the retina. As long as there is sufficient light for an eye to focus on, it can make out fine details even if its vision has been blurred by a cataract. Cataracts can be distinguished from other types of blurriness by their unique characteristics.

What is the First Sign of Cataracts? (Explained with Examples) 1

Cataracts have three main effects on vision.

The first effect is blurring. Blurred images appear fuzzy and unclear. A patient’s perception of depth is affected.

The second effect is decreased contrast. Contrast refers to how well objects stand out against each other. When you read text or watch TV, you notice the difference between black letters on a white background and white letters on a black background. With cataracts, this difference is reduced. You may not be able to distinguish between two shades of gray or between dark colors and lighter ones.

The third effect is loss of color. Color vision is based on wavelengths of light. This allows us to see reds, greens and blues. Blue light is filtered out by cataracts. Therefore, perception of true colors is lost.

Early Symptoms of Cataracts

There are multiple early signs of cataracts.

They cause blurry vision. They start out as cloudy spots in the eye, but they grow into large opacities in the lens over time. Cataracts are caused by protein changes in the lens of the eye. These lens changes prevent light from getting to the retina.

Blurred vision could be caused by early cataractous changes in the lens, or it could be because there are two different types of cataracts. One type causes cloudy vision, while the other causes double vision.

Seeing tinges of yellow and blue may be caused by cataracts. Halos and glare around bright light may be caused by them. Patients with cataracts may notice sensitivity to bright lights.

Symptoms of Advanced Cataracts

Advanced stage cataracts have a different set of symptoms and signs. You may start experiencing some of the following symptoms as you get older:

Your eyeglass prescriptions may change more frequently. Colors may appear dull or yellowish.

Patients who suffer from cataracts should seek out treatment sooner than later. Symptoms include blurry vision and difficulty seeing objects up close. Early detection is key because there are several treatment options available to help patients regain their eyesight.

Cataracts are usually diagnosed through an eye examination. Your doctor dilates your eyes and examines the entire lens to see if there are any opacities in the lenses. This procedure takes about 15-30 minutes to take effect and 4-6 hours to wear off.

People aged 60 and older should get regular eye exam every year.

What is the First Sign of Cataracts?

There are multiple possible signs one can notice. We can not tell for sure who will have which symptom in the early stages of cataract development.

Cataracts cause cloudy, blurry vision. You need bright light for reading and other daily activities. Your eyes get sensitive to light and glare. You see halos around lights. You need to change your glasses or contacts frequently. Colors fade and become yellowish.

Here is the breakdown of all possible first signs of cataracts:

Vision appears cloudy

Cataracts cause blurry vision, which is usually the most common symptom. A person with cataracts thinks he or she sees things differently than others because of the cloudy lenses. People with cataracts often have significantly impaired vision.

Myopic shift (short-sightedness) and second sight

This is an interesting phenomenon. When a person develops nuclear sclerosis type cataract, his or her near vision improves and the person no longer needs reading glasses to do near work. Click here to know why this happens. This improvement in near vision with cataract development is known as ‘second sight’. Second sight is temporary before the inevitable surgery.

Poor night vision

Cataracts cause people to lose their eyesight, especially in the night time. Some people with cataracts have trouble seeing well at night because of glare from headlights from vehicles on the road.

Glare and halo

People who have developed cataract, may experience glare or halo effect, such as being sensitive to the glare of the sun or lamps. Cataracts cause glare and other problems when driving at night. They also feel difficulty in seeing in bright daylight.

Double vision

When you have cataracts, you may see double images or blurry vision. Double-vision happens when an image appears doubled or tripled. You may see two images side by side. Or, you may see three images next to each other, instead of a single image.

Vision changes

Cataracts are a common eye disease that causes vision problems. People who develop them need new eyeglasses or contact lenses often.

Color Changes

Cataracts can cause your eyesight to become duller and less clear. You may start seeing colors as browns and yellows instead of true colors. As cataracts progress, you might begin to see less colors than usual.

Changing contact lenses or glasses frequently

Frequent change in the prescription of your glasses and contact lenses is an early sign of developing cataracts. Your doctor may recommend surgery to remove them.

Difficulty in reading

Cataracts cause difficulty when reading because of the cloudiness of the lens. The lens is made up of protein and water. When the proteins get stuck together, the lens gets cloudy. This causes difficulties when reading because the text is difficult to see.

How to Slow Down Cataract Progression

Cataracts are small to large opacities in the lens of the eyes. They can affect vision, especially when they form on both lenses of the eyes. Small cataracts often progress slowly over years. But sometimes they start growing fast, and then they become a problem.

People who have cataracts should see an eye doctor right away because if they wait too long, they could lose their sight. There are ways to slow down the growth of cataracts, but they won’t work if they’re already formed.

Switch to an “eye-healthy” diet that includes green vegetables, nuts, healthy fats and proteins and cold-water fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Protect your eyes from sunlight by wearing sunglasses or a brimmed cap outside during the day. Ask about side effects associated with any prescription drugs (especially steroids) that may cause cataracts to progress faster.

Cataracts are a common problem among older people. Regular eye exams help doctors track the progress of cataracts and determine if cataract surgery is needed.

When to Seek Medical Advice

If you experience one or more of these symptoms, then you should visit an eye doctor for further evaluation.

Your vision may be blurry or hazy to an extent that interferes with your daily routine.
If you have to increase the brightness of the screen too much to read well.
You can’t see well when there isn’t enough light.
Colors appear dull (yellowish/brownish).
When wearing eyeglasses, if you notice any dirtiness or smudges on them, you might think your lenses need cleaning. However, this could be because of cataract.
If cataracts aren’t causing pain or making your eyes feel irritated, there’s no need for any urgent treatment. However, if you notice any signs of discomfort, contact your doctor immediately. This is a situation where cataract may cause secondary inflammation and/or elevated eye pressure.

If you notice any changes in your vision or if you are experiencing pain or discomfort while looking at something close up, such as reading a book or watching television, then it may be an indication that you need to visit your eye care professional for a comprehensive eye examination. Your doctor may then advise surgery for cataracts which are impacting your routine life severely.

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