By the age of 65, over 90% percent of people will develop cataracts. In the early stages, you likely won’t notice any symptoms, but as your cataracts progress, you may notice blurry vision, faded colors, and increased sensitivity to light, among other things. This guide explains how different types of cataracts affect your eyesight and the symptoms to watch for so you can protect your vision.
In earlier stages, cataracts pose few to no symptoms, but as the damage to your eye worsens, you’ll begin to notice changes in your vision. The changes you experience will depend on the type of cataract you have. The most common symptoms include:
- Cloudy or blurry vision
- Faded colors
- Worsening night vision
- Increased sensitivity to light
- A halo effect around lights
- Double vision
You can have a cataract in one or both eyes, but they don’t always develop at the same rate, so your symptoms may differ between eyes. Symptoms can also come and go as cataracts worsen — for instance, double vision often goes away as a cataract grows larger.
Types of Cataracts
Cataracts all have one thing in common: They cause clouding in the lens of your eye (the clear part that helps you focus light). Cataracts are categorized based on the location of changes intheir position on your eye’s lens. Here are the three primary types of cataracts and their key symptoms.
1. Posterior Subcapsular Cataracts
Posterior Subcapsular Cataracts are located on the back of the lens.
This type of cataract commonly occurs in people who have had eye trauma or surgery; it’s also associated with elevated blood sugar levels and steroid treatment. A PSC can also form in perfectly normal eyes.
These cataracts tend to develop more rapidly, sometimes over the course of months. Since the placement of a PSC obstructs the path of light as it enters the eye, it can cause a glare or halo effect. PSC can also worsen near-vision and vision in bright-light settings.
2. Nuclear Sclerosis Cataracts
Nuclear Sclerosis Cataracts are located in the center of the lens.
Nuclear cataracts are the most common cataracts and they are generally caused by aging. Nuclear cataracts affect the central lens, which is known as the nucleus. As you age, your lens gradually hardens and yellows. Oddly, some people report improved vision during the early stages of nuclear cataracts, but this is temporary.
As nuclear cataracts advance, they can make it more difficult to distinguish between different shades of color. With a nuclear cataract, you’re more likely to notice a substantial impact on your distance vision than near vision. The good news is that these cataracts tend to grow slowly and may take several years before vision is dramatically affected.
3. Cortical Cataract
Cortical Cataracts are located on the outer layer of the lens.
Cortical cataracts have the earliest noticeable symptoms out of all types of cataracts. They’re characterized by opacities forming in the lens cortex, which leads to small clouded areas or white streaks. These white streaks, known as “cortical spokes,” will grow over time and may extend to the center of the lens as the cataracts progress.
The primary symptoms of cortical cataracts include glare, light sensitivity, blurry vision, and issues with depth perception.
How a Cataract Affects Your Vision
Now that you understand the primary symptoms caused by different types of cataracts, it’s helpful to consider the physical properties of cataracts that lead to these symptoms.
As cataracts develop, the clouding and discoloration in your eye’s lens worsens. This disrupts the natural light diffraction process, disturbing your brain’s ability to process the world around you. If cataracts go untreated, they can eventually cause total blindness.
Cataracts develop at different rates, depending on the type, cause, and individual. You could see major changes to your vision over the course of months, while others may see the process unfold over a year or more.
Wearing anti-glare sunglasses, turning up the lights at night, or changing your prescription may help you offset the effects of cataracts for a while, but there’s no preventing, slowing down, or reversing cataracts — that’s why you should go to your eye doctor if you have concerns.
When to See a Doctor
Many people will eventually develop cataracts, but you might not notice you have them until your cataracts have grown significantly, posing notable issues with your vision.
Your eye doctor may be able to spot the early signs of cataracts in a routine annual eye exam, but it’s best to schedule a comprehensive eye exam at least every two years, which will allow for definite diagnosis of a cataract sooner rather than later.
If you’re already noticing changes to your vision, schedule a comprehensive eye exam with your doctor right away. If you have cataracts, you can discuss your options for treatment, but it’s also important to rule out other causes like glaucoma (which is not treatable and can lead to permanent blindness).
While cataracts cannot be reversed, you can restore your vision by having your cataracts surgically removed. You can have cataract surgery at any stage. So, if your doctor detects early-stage cataracts, you can have them removed before they ever have the chance to cause noticeable changes to your vision.
Do You Need to See a Doctor?
If you have concerns about cataracts or your vision health in general, the best thing you can do is speak directly to a licensed eye doctor and discuss your concerns. Book a consultation with SuraVision today by calling 713-730-2020 or filling out our contact form.