Cataract signs and symptoms are typically very slow to develop. Sometimes this results in people being surprised when they are first told they have a cataract and that cataract surgery is expected in the next several years. Quite often, cataract symptoms may also be blamed on something else, such as poor quality newspaper print making it difficult to read. Could you be experiencing cataract symptoms without even realising? Keep reading to learn about what cataract signs and symptoms you should be aware of.
What is a Cataract?
A cataract is a loss of transparency of the crystalline lens inside your eye. This affects the way that light passes through the lens, resulting in all the common cataract signs and symptoms. Most cataracts are caused by increasing age, known as age-related or senile cataracts. However, cataracts can also arise from other causes, including trauma, systemic diseases, and even some medications.
Cataract surgery is effectively able to reverse the vision impairment directly due to a cataract. Often, this is able to restore your vision to the clarity you once enjoyed years ago. However, if your cataract is only part of the picture and your vision is affected by other factors, cataract surgery may only be able to restore part of your vision. For example, if an eye injury has resulted in both a cataract and a retinal detachment, cataract surgery will provide only a partial improvement.
Cataract Signs and Symptoms
Cataract symptoms can vary between different individuals and can even play a role when you feel ready to pursue cataract surgery. What you experience as your cataract develops can depend on a few different things, such as:
- Your sensitivity to changes to your vision
- The location and type of cataract
- The severity of your cataract
- Even your hobbies and vocation
The most well-known cataract symptom that people expect is blurry vision. While blurry vision is certainly common, identifying that your deteriorating vision is due to a cataract can be more difficult than you think.
People with cataracts may also describe their vision as foggy, filmy, or cloudy. In fact, in the early days of a cataract, you may think that your glasses are just always dirty!
Here are some other typical cataract symptoms.
Deteriorating contrast sensitivity
With a cataract blocking part of the light trying to enter your eye to form vision, you may find increasing difficulty in seeing in low contrast situations. For example, where you were once able to read the fine print of a menu in a dimly lit restaurant, you may now need a bit of extra lighting. The same goes for realising you’re most comfortable in reading the newspaper in the natural light of the morning. Some people will first notice this symptom when driving in overcast or rainy conditions, or during dusk or dawn.
Increasing glare sensitivity
Everyone will feel some degree of discomfort to overly bright lights. However, with the development of a cataract, you may find yourself squinting in lights that once didn’t bother you. This is because the growing opacity of the cataract scatters light passing through the lens, which is what we perceive as glare. Moments where you find yourself unusually glare sensitive may include driving at night with oncoming car headlights or street lamps, or when trying to read LED signboards, such as at a sports ground. You may also find your backlit mobile phone or computer screen also becomes more uncomfortable to view.
Frequent changes to your prescription
Your prescription is partly dictated by the refractive power of your eye. As a cataract develops in your crystalline lens, it can gradually change in its refractive power, thereby altering your prescription. You may find that the glasses you purchased only a year ago are no longer clear, or that your contact lens script changes at every check-up. Depending on the type of cataract, the power of your eye can move in either a short- or long-sighted direction. An interesting benefit of this is that it can cause you to be less dependent on your glasses, depending on your original prescription and in which direction it has shifted. A cataract may also cause changes to your astigmatism.
An isolated cataract is never associated with pain or redness of the eye. Other eye conditions such as infections or injuries may share some cataract symptoms but if you are also experiencing discharge, pain, or redness, you can be sure it’s not a simple cataract.
Deciding on Cataract Surgery
Fortunately for us, cataract surgery is easily accessible in Australia, whether through public or private medical systems.
The main consideration of deciding whether you’re ready for cataract surgery is whether your vision is still adequate for your needs. This can vary widely from individual to individual, even those who have the same level of cataract. In the early to moderate stages, you may find you’re still quite satisfied with your vision, and cataract surgery can be comfortably delayed. Conversely, if your work or hobbies require you to have very sharp, accurate vision, you may be inclined to undergo cataract surgery sooner rather than later. For example, a truck driver doing long trips overnight may be significantly more impacted by the glare from a cataract compared to an office worker who drives infrequently at night.
Ultimately, the timing of having your cataracts removed is largely up to you. However, you may want to discuss it with your optometrist, GP, or ophthalmologist, who will be able to guide you. Call us on today 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.