What Are The First Signs Of Cataracts?
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Cataracts can begin forming at age 40. Proteins clump onto the eye lens and prevent light from properly focusing, thus obscuring vision. A cataract forms slowly and can take decades to become noticeable or to reach the point of needing surgery.
In the early stages, cataracts are either not noticeable or barely noticeable. Most people think their refractive error is changing but it could be a cataract clouding the vision.
Symptoms do worsen over time, and it is important to get regular eye exams so we can check the progression of the cataract.
The most common sign is blurred vision. Patients report having hazy vision as if they are looking through a dirty window. Some patients experience specific spots of fuzziness in the vision. It is like a small spot on your glasses or contact lenses that you just can’t get clean, except that it is on your eye.
As cataracts progress, people often need more light for tasks like reading. Patients tell us that they need more light especially at dawn, dusk or nighttime, and they often need to brighten computer or smartphone screens to see better.
The proteins that cause cataracts can also change how you see colors. Typical colors may seem duller or dimmer, and may take on more yellow tones. If you have seen a sepia tone photograph, that may be more of what you see.
Patients also report an increased sensitivity to light, including sunlight, overhead lights, lights from screens and devices and headlights. You might find yourself wearing sunglasses much more often, and may have more difficulty seeing or driving at night because of the headlight glare or halos around the lights.
In the later stages, some people have double vision in one eye. You may also have trouble focusing on objects close to your face.
There are generally four stages of cataract growth. In the first or beginning stage, the lens is predominantly clear but proteins have started to deposit. In the second stage, an immature cataract forms, meaning the proteins have begun to clump together. Patients report that glare, particularly while driving, becomes an issue at this stage.
In the third stage, a mature cataract forms over most of the lens. The cataract has a milky white appearance and vision has become muted. In the final stage, the mature cataract becomes even denser, hardening into what we term a hypermature cataract. Vision is significantly impaired and you can likely see the cataract while looking in the mirror. A hypermature cataract is much more difficult to remove surgically, so we recommend surgery when the cataract reaches the mature stage.
Left untreated, cataracts lead to blindness. When the cataract significantly interferes with vision, surgery is recommended. About half of all adults will have undergone cataract surgery by age 80. If you suspect you have cataracts or if it has just been a while since you’ve had an eye exam, come see us at one of our convenient at Eye Consultants of Pennsylvania locations. We’re ready to meet you, so give us a call today to schedule your appointment.
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