Have you recently been feeling like your vision is deteriorating? How do you know whether what you’re experiencing is a serious, sight-threatening eye condition or a simple age-related haze in your eye’s lens that can be fixed with cataract surgery? While any changes to your vision are best diagnosed with a comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist, for those wondering what does cataract vision look like, here’s what you might expect if your sight deterioration is from cataracts.
What is a Cataract?
A cataract is any haze or opacity in the crystalline lens of your eye. A normal, healthy lens is transparent, allowing light to pass through it for clear vision. There are many causes of a cataract, however, older age accounts for most cases of cataract in the Western world. Other causes of a cataract can include trauma to the eye, whether physical, chemical, or electrical; systemic metabolic diseases, such as diabetes; or as a result of certain medical interventions, including medications or eye procedures.
The location, density, and type of cataract will play a role in determining your cataract symptoms and the answer to what does cataract vision look like for you. The impact of a cataract on an individual’s vision and quality of life will also be subject to various factors, including their tolerance to blur and sensitivity to changes to their sight, as well as their hobbies and vocation.
At the moment, the only definitive treatment for a cataract is through cataract surgery. Cataract surgery is a common eye operation that involves complete removal of the cataract, replacing it with an artificial lens implant called an intraocular lens. In Australia, you can access quality cataract surgery with an experienced ophthalmologist through both the public and private medical systems.
So, what does cataract vision look like and when should you suspect that you have a cataract?
What Does Cataract Vision Look Like?
In the early stages of a cataract, you may not notice any changes to your sight at all. In most cases, cataracts progress quite slowly, making it difficult to discern that your vision is deteriorating over time. Some people realise for the first time that their vision is not as good as it used to be only when they attend a routine eye check.
As the cataract continues to develop, you may become aware that certain activities are becoming a little more difficult. These may include:
- Difficulty with reading. While reading large black letters against a stark white background in natural sunlight is most likely going to continue to be quite easy, there will be other circumstances where reading may take a little more concentration than usual. These situations may include trying to read coloured text against a coloured background, or when trying to read the fine print of a medication bottle. Some people with cataract also find it increasingly difficult to read in dim lighting and need more focused task lighting on their reading material. The reason for these issues is that the cataract is reducing your visual acuity and contrast sensitivity.
- Difficulty with driving. Similar to reading, if it’s a bright day with clear skies, you’re not likely to find driving a problem. However, many people with cataracts begin to feel less comfortable and confident driving at night or in grey, cloudy, rainy conditions. The deterioration of your contrast sensitivity from the cataract is again responsible for this. As your cataracts advance, you may find it more difficult to pick out a silver or grey car ahead of you through the rain. Some types of cataracts can cause an increase in glare sensitivity, which can mean the headlights of oncoming cars on the road or street lights may also feel more dazzling when you drive at night.
- Difficulty with colour vision. One type of age-related cataract known as nuclear sclerosis results in a yellow-brownish tinge in the eye’s lens. This coloured haze filters out certain wavelengths of the colour spectrum, which can alter your colour vision. Not many people with cataract realise this change to their sight is happening until after they undergo cataract surgery and then realise how much more vibrant colours are. If you have a hobby or occupation that requires fine colour discrimination, such as a painter or colourist, you may be more aware of this change to your vision.
- General difficulty with seeing fine detail. As the cataract progresses, the clouding in your eye’s lens will block more and more light from reaching the sensory retina, which is necessary for sight. This will result in an overall reduction in your clarity of vision, which some people describe as foggy, filmy, hazy, or blurry. In addition to increased difficulty with reading small or low contrast text, there may be other situations you may find more challenging, such as recognising faces from afar.
Sight through a cataract is not associated with flashing lights in your sight, areas of complete vision loss, or spots and specks in your vision. These symptoms should be urgently assessed by an eye care professional or hospital emergency department.
If you think you’re ready for cataract surgery, speak to your optometrist or ophthalmologist. They will be able to examine your eyes and vision and offer advice on the timing of cataract surgery.
Call us on (03) 9070 5753 today.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.