It may come as a surprise to you, but cataract signs and symptoms can sometimes be difficult to pick. Many people think cataract symptoms revolve around blurred vision, however, there can be more subtle indications that cataract surgery may be needed within the next several years. Keep reading to learn about the common cataract signs and symptoms.
Cataract Signs and Symptoms
The specific cataract symptoms an individual experiences can differ from one to another. Symptoms can be influenced by factors such as the location and type of your cataract, how advanced it is, and even the ways in which you use your vision for day-to-day tasks.
Cataract surgery is the only definitive way of treating a cataract and relieving your cataract symptoms. However, if you’re not yet feeling ready to undergo cataract surgery, there are other strategies you can use to maximise your vision in the meantime. These include having your glasses or contact lens prescription updated, optimising the lighting in your house and workplace, or using a magnifying glass.
Although blurred sight is the most commonly known of the cataract symptoms, some people with cataracts in fact never identify their vision as being blurry. Instead, they may feel their sight is not blurred but instead foggy, filmy, or cloudy. A popular analogy of vision with a cataract is like trying to look through a dirty window.
Here are some other typical signs that cataract surgery might be on the horizon.
Your prescription keeps changing
Although frequent shifts to your glasses or contact lens prescription may be a sign of other eye conditions, cataracts are often associated with a rapidly changing script. Depending on the type of cataract, you may find your prescription either shifting to increased long-sightedness (hyperopia) or short-sightedness (myopia). Interestingly, on occasion, this prescription change can work in your favour. For example, increasing short-sightedness can improve your near vision, meaning you depend less on your reading glasses. However, the expenses involved in continually updating your changing script in your glasses can mean some people opt for cataract surgery sooner rather than later.
Decreasing contrast sensitivity
As the cataract blocks some of the light trying to enter the eye, some people find the first sign of a cataract to be that they now need much brighter lighting in order to read.
This may mean bringing out your phone torch to read the menu at a restaurant or taking your newspaper to the window for some bright natural lighting.
Increasing glare sensitivity
The opacity of a cataract can cause a scattering of light, which we perceive as glare. Low levels of glare may be uncomfortable while more intense glare can be debilitating. You may find the computer screen uncomfortable to view until you reduce the brightness, or oncoming car headlights while driving at night suddenly make you feel unsafe. If your vocation puts you in a situation where the glare caused by your cataracts are an issue, such as being a taxi driver on the night shift, you may choose to have cataract surgery even if your daytime vision is unproblematic.
Altered colour vision
This may be the most difficult to identify of all the cataract signs and symptoms as the effects are very subtle. A particular type of age-related cataract known as nuclear sclerosis develops as a brownish-yellowish tinge in the centre of the lens of the eye. Because of this colouration, certain wavelengths of light passing through the lens are filtered out, resulting in an alteration to your colour perception. For most people, this is not noticeable until you have cataract surgery and realise how much colour you’ve been missing out on! However, some occupations and hobbies, including painting, interior designing, or even quality control for fresh produce, may rely on accurate colour vision and so may need to consider a cataract operation sooner.
It’s important to remember that discharge, pain, and a red eye are never associated with a cataract, even if other cataract-like symptoms of blurred vision or glare sensitivity are present.
Cataracts are a benign growth and often it’s very safe to postpone cataract surgery until you feel ready. The main consideration will be whether you feel comfortable completing your daily tasks with the vision that you have. Some people may have a very low tolerance to changes to their sight and so will want to pursue cataract surgery sooner rather than later, while others are not bothered by their vision until their cataract is much more advanced. Still, others prefer to just get cataracts out of the way, while others prefer to wait until their schedule clears up.
The decision about the timing of surgery can be made in consultation with your optometrist or ophthalmologist; however, the choice is ultimately up to you. Be aware that in Australia, public cataract surgery waiting lists can sometimes be in excess of 12 months. If you are going via the private system, you may be seen within a couple of months for your operation, but may be significantly out of pocket, depending on your level of private health insurance. Whatever you decide about the timing of your cataract operation, be sure to keep in contact with your eye care professional to ensure your overall eye health remains on track.
Call us now on (03) 9070 5753 for a consultation.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.