Cataract symptoms are not always as easily identifiable as many people may think. In fact, those currently developing cataracts may not even realise their visual symptoms are leading them down the path to eventual cataract surgery. Some put their difficulties down to “just getting old”, which in a way is true, as cataracts are typically a result of ageing. To find out what are the symptoms of a cataract, keep reading.
What Are the Symptoms of a Cataract?
Developing cataracts can result in a variety of visual symptoms. Not all of these will be noticeable to everyone with a cataract, and not everyone will be bothered to the same degree despite the same symptoms. In most cases, it’s the effect of developing cataracts on your quality of life that will guide the decision to cataract surgery.
So, typically, what are the symptoms of a cataract? In the early stages of a cataract, the answer is not much. However, as the cataracts progress, you may experience some or all of the following symptoms.
Deteriorating visual acuity.
Many people think cataracts just cause blurry vision. In actual fact, many patients don’t identify their vision as blurry. Instead, you may feel that words like “filmy”, “hazy”, “cloudy”, or “mucky” are more appropriate to describe the sensation. It may feel like looking through smudged or dirty glasses lenses that just can’t be cleaned. As cataracts tend to progress very slowly, you may not necessarily be aware of these changes to your vision. The deterioration of your clarity of sight may only be apparent during a routine eye test when compared to previous results.
Increasing glare sensitivity.
Although many people are naturally light sensitive even without developing cataracts, the presence of a cataract can exacerbate your sensitivity to glare. This can manifest in situations such as driving at night time when you are faced with the glare from traffic lights, other car headlights, and street lamps. This can cause you to feel uncomfortable and unsafe driving at night.
Decreasing contrast sensitivity.
The idea of contrast sensitivity may be a little abstract. However, think about trying to read a menu in a dimly lit restaurant, or trying to thread a needle in a corner of the room away from the window. Where these tasks may have not been too difficult several years ago, you may now find yourself needing better lighting to increase the contrast of the text in order to read it.
Frequent changes to your prescription.
As a cataract develops, it has the potential to change the refractive power of the lens of the eye.
This results in a shift in your prescription. Depending on the type and location of cataracts, this can cause your prescription to become more plus (a long-sighted shift) or more minus (a short-sighted shift).
As the cataract continues to grow, it can progressively cause further changes to your script. Although updating your glasses or contacts can delay the need for cataract surgery by improving your vision, this may just be short-lived and it can be expensive to continually buy new glasses so frequently.
Alterations to your colour vision.
One type of age-related cataract called nuclear sclerosis causes the lens to turn a yellowish-brown colour. This results in your colour perception being affected. However, rarely is this a cause for someone to seek cataract surgery, as many patients don’t notice this slow and subtle shift. However, once the cataracts are removed, you may be surprised to notice how bright and vibrant the colours are.
What are the Symptoms of a Cataract That Might Indicate Cataract Surgery is Necessary?
The decision to undergo cataract surgery is largely guided by how profoundly your cataract symptoms are affecting you. This will vary from individual to individual based on their hobbies, occupation, and their tolerance to changes to their sight. The majority with cataracts will elect to go for cataract surgery based on their deteriorating clarity of sight. However, you may find that although your visual acuity is still quite reasonable, you are having trouble driving comfortably at night as a taxi driver. Alternatively, an interior designer with good visual acuity and no issues with glare sensitivity may find their altered colour perception is interfering with their job. In these cases, cataract surgery can be a valid option.
If you are content with your vision despite the presence of a cataract, in most cases, there’s no harm to delay the cataract operation. A caveat to this is if your visual acuity fails to meet the driving vision standard in your state, in which case you will be strongly advised to undergo cataract surgery.
Cataract surgery is a straightforward procedure that removes the eye’s natural lens (containing the cataract) and replaces it with a clear implant. Once the cataract has been extracted, you will find your vision is much sharper, your prescription more stable, and your colours much brighter. As a side note, cataract surgery has the potential to cause glare sensitivity as a side effect, but this is typically short-lived and will self-resolve over a number of weeks to months.
An added benefit to cataract surgery is that the implant is usually calculated to correct your eye’s prescription. This means that you may no longer need to depend on glasses or contacts after your operation.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
Cataracts: Symptoms & Causes.