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What Are The Symptoms of Cataracts?

Submitted by glacialcontent@glacial.com on August 3, 2021

Cataracts affect one in six Americans over the age of forty. That’s over 24 million people!

Most people, at some point in their lives, will develop them. Simply put, cataracts are a natural part of life. But what are cataracts, exactly?

Keep reading to learn more about cataracts and the most common symptoms they cause.

What Are Cataracts?

Cataracts develop inside the natural lens of your eye. A healthy lens is transparent so light can pass through it.

It focuses light that passes through to create clear and consistent vision at different ranges. However, it is only transparent because the proteins inside of the lens have a particular orientation and organization.

As you get older, or due to external factors like smoking, disease, or sun exposure, these proteins begin to break down and clump together. As the proteins accumulate, the buildup starts to get bigger and murkier.

At first, the cataract blocks only a tiny amount of light. But as it develops and matures, less and less light can pass through unobstructed. This opacity is what leads to the following symptoms.

Blurry Vision

drunk loop GIF by Psyklon

The most evident symptom of cataracts is the change in the quality of your vision. Light needs to hit your retina at the back of your eye for you to see.

As the cataract grows and becomes more opaque, less light can get through. However, cataract development is so slow that you may not notice a change in your vision right off.

Your brain can get used to your blurry eyesight faster than it worsens. 

Double Vision

You may experience double vision in one or both of your eyes while cataracts are developing. Double vision means you see multiple blurry images of whatever you focus on instead of one singular object.

This symptom can be very disorienting and, in certain situations, dangerous. 

Light Sensitivity and Glare

There are different types of cataracts, depending on where and how they grow inside of the lens. One variation called cortical cataracts forms on the perimeter of your lens.

As this type of cataract develops, they grow inwards toward the center of your lens like spokes on a wagon wheel. This variation can cause light to scatter inside your eye, which causes you to become hypersensitive to light and experience glare.

Muddy Colors

Cataracts themselves are not white. Before they completely darken, they can give light that passes through them a yellowish-brown tinge.

This reduces your ability to discern color contrast and gives everything a dirty look. It is one reason why people with cataracts feel like they’re looking through a foggy window.

Night Driving and Halos

flowers in the dirt halo GIF by Paul McCartney

Since cataracts affect your vision by blocking light, the problem worsens at night when there is less light. The early stages of cataracts may be more apparent at nighttime, especially when you are driving.

You may also notice halos around fixed points of light such as street lamps or oncoming traffic. This can make driving dangerous, so avoid doing so if it feels unsafe.

Frequent Prescription Changes

Cataracts grow slowly but relentlessly. That means you may notice your prescription changing more frequently than it used to.

Frequent prescription changes become very common as your cataracts get thicker and thicker. Consistent, continuous changes might be a sign that cataract surgery may soon be necessary for you.

Second sight

One interesting phenomenon is when cataracts temporarily improve vision. You may notice your reading vision seems to improve while you have cataracts.

Second vision from cataracts causes light to refract through the lens in just the right way to improve your eyesight. While this benefit is excellent at the moment, it is short-lived because cataracts continue to grow and darken.

It is impossible to know for sure how long your cataracts will take to develop, as it depends on various factors. However, it is usually prolonged and gradual.

Most doctors don’t remove cataracts until they are interfering with your life. You can live and cope with cataracts for quite a long time before they interrupt your routine.

But once they begin to make it difficult to read or drive, it is time to start considering cataract surgery. Fortunately, when it is time to have your cataracts removed, cataract surgery is effective.

Cataract surgery is the most common medical procedure in the country. It is a straightforward process that can, in some cases, give you the best eyesight of your life.

How Does Cataract Surgery Work?

Your surgeon does not extract the cataract from the lens. Instead, they replace the entire lens with a new lens called an intraocular lens or IOL.

older man hiking

First, they apply anesthetic eye drops to your eyes. These drops numb your eyes and the surrounding area, so you don’t feel any pain.

If you feel anxious, they may offer you medication to help you relax as well. Then your surgeon creates an opening in your cornea.

This opening is a gateway for an instrument that opens the capsule holding the lens of your eye. Once the capsule is open, a second device gets inserted.

This pen-like probe emits high-frequency sound waves to break your natural lens into small pieces. The smaller pieces allow your surgeon to remove your lens with gentle suction.

Once your old lens is out, the IOL gets inserted into the same capsule. The cornea is then closed and allowed to reattach itself without the need for stitches.

Recovery from cataract surgery is straightforward. But you will need to be careful not to put your eyes in danger and take it easy for several days.

Full recovery can take a few months, but you should be back to your everyday life before then. Cataract surgery will restore your eyesight so that you can get through a typical day again.

Depending on the IOL you choose, you could even have better eyesight than you ever have in your life. Your eye doctor will help you select the IOL that is best for you.

Are you ready to discuss cataracts and cataract surgery with an eye doctor? Schedule a screening at The Ophthalmic Center in Wading River, NY, to get help dealing with your cataracts!

Posted Under: Cataracts