Early symptoms of cataracts

cataractCataract Awareness Month is here. Do you know about the early symptoms of cataracts? You should, because in the very beginning cataracts may affect only a small part of the lens of eye, rendering any vision loss practically imperceptible. But as the cataract grows a larger area of the lens is affected, distorting the light the passes through it and causing more noticeable symptoms.

Cataract symptoms include:

  • Cloudy, blurry, fuzzy, foggy, filmy, or dim vision.
  • Growing difficulty with vision at night.
  • Sensitivity to light and glare.
  • Seeing a ‘halo’ around lights.
  • Changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions.
  • Colors fading or yellowing.
  • Double vision in one eye.
  • Difficulty seeing shapes against a background or telling the difference between color shades.

Cataracts usually appear with increasing age. Up to age 45, the lens can still change shape to focus on objects. As you grow older the lens thickens, darkens and stiffens, and proteins in the lens start to break down and cluster together leading to cloudiness. Mild clouding tends to take place after 60 years of age; most people experience cataract-related vision problems by the time they are 75 years old. However, certain people may actually be born with cataracts or develop them during childhood. It all depends on the type of cataracts.

Cataract types


This type affects the center of the lens. May cause people to become more nearsighted or even improve their reading vision. Eventually, though, the lens goes from normal to yellow to brown, making it difficult to distinguish shades of color.


This form affects the edges of the lens. It starts as whitish, wedge-shaped opacities or streaks on the external edge of the lens cortex that may extend to the center and interfere with the passage of light, and create difficulties with glare.

Posterior subcapsular

This type affects the back of the lens. It begins as a small, opaque area near the back of the lens, standing between the light and the retina. It can interfere with reading vision, vision in bright light, and cause glare or halos around lights at night.


May be caused by an infection during pregnancy, or by myotonic dystrophy, galactosemia, Lowe's syndrome or rubella.


This form may develop after being exposed to some types of radiation.


May appear following surgery for other eye problems (e.g. glaucoma). May also be related to diabetes or steroid intake.


May develop following an eye injury – even years later.

More often than not, cataracts develop in both eyes – though it may be that only one eye is affected – but since they are usually asymmetrical, a cataract in one eye may be larger or smaller than in the other eye. Additionally, the early symptoms of cataracts are painless, with vision very gradually worsening to the point of interfering with daily activities such reading or driving a car – or even finding yourself wearing purple instead of black at a funeral.

In order to keep an eye open for cataracts, watch out for the following risk factors:

  • Aging.
  • Diabetes.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Heavy exposure to sunlight.
  • Exposure to ionizing radiation.
  • Family history.
  • Hypertension.
  • Obesity.
  • Eye injury or inflammation.
  • Eye surgery.
  • Long-time use of corticosteroids.
  • Smoking.

You should see a doctor if you experience any vision changes like double or blurry vision. In addition to reviewing your medical history and symptoms, the doctor will perform one or more of the following tests:

  • Visual acuity test (reading an eye chart).
  • Slit-lamp examination.
  • Retinal examination.
  • Tonometry.

In very early cases, eyeglass prescription changes, better lighting, magnifying glasses, and sunglasses may improve the symptoms, but the only truly effective treatment is surgery. But at least you get to choose from two different types of surgery.

Cataract surgeries


A small probe is inserted through an incision on the side of the cornea to send ultrasound waves that weaken and break up the lens so it can be sucked out.

Extracapsular surgery

The clouded core of the lens is removed through a larger incision on the side of the cornea, while the rest of the lens is suctioned out.

The removed lens may be replaced with an artificial, or intraocular, lens. If that is not possible, eyeglasses or contact lenses may be used to correct vision. On the plus side, cataract surgery does not require further hospitalization. On the minus side, local anesthesia is used around the eye, but the patient usually remains conscious during the procedure. Fortunately, there are always ways to prevent cataracts, such as:

Having your eye examined regularly.

  • Quitting smoking.
  • Reducing alcohol intake.
  • Wearing sunglasses.
  • Managing other health conditions.
  • Keeping a healthy weight.
  • Eating vegetables and fruits.

Related Read:

- Early symptoms of glaucoma