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What are the signs and symptoms of cataracts?

You can expect your vision and eyes to go through changes as you grow older. Some people end up with cataracts, which refers to cloudy lenses. As your lenses become cloudier, it affects your ability to see and can have an impact on your daily activities. Learn more about the common symptoms of cataracts, as well as why they develop, and which factors might increase your risk of having them.

Cataract symptoms tend to occur gradually over the years. This can make it hard to realize you might have cataracts, so it’s important to get annual eye exams. While there are some common signs that cataracts may be developing, it’s important to have your eyes checked by an optometrist or ophthalmologist to confirm their presence. As cataracts progress, your vision might become more blurry or cloudy in one area. When this cloudiness covers a larger area, you’re likely to have blurry vision overall.

Other symptoms that can occur include seeing double, having trouble driving at night, being more sensitive to light, needing additional lighting to read, and seeing colors as more yellowish or dull. The need to frequently adjust your eyeglass or contact lens prescription can also be a sign of advancing cataracts.

Why Cataracts Occur

Cataracts typically develop during the natural aging process as your eyes change, which usually begins in your 40s. Proteins that allow light to filter through your lens form clumps that result in areas of blurriness or cloudiness. You might have a higher risk of cataracts if you have medical conditions, such as diabetes, or a history of cataracts in your family. If you have cataracts, your eye doctor can discuss treatment options to help your vision improve.

Close of an eye with a mature cataract

Diagnosing Cataracts

If you notice any of these symptoms, an ophthalmologist can perform one (or more) of the following diagnostic tests:

  • A visual acuity test uses a chart to determine how well you can see a series of letters from a distance.
  • A slit-lamp examination allows an ophthalmologist to observe the structures at the front of the eye (cornea, lens, iris)
  • A retina exam is used to examine the back of the eye (the retina) with a slit-lamp or ophthalmoscope after the eye is dilated with drops.

The trusted doctors at ICON Eyecare are trained to diagnose and treat your cataracts quickly and efficiently.

ICON Eyecare's Dr. David Litoff conducts a slit lamp exam
Mitigating Likelihood of Cataracts

Although cataracts cannot be prevented, patients can take steps to slow their progression and mitigate their effects.

These measures include:

  • Quitting smoking.
  • Eating a diet rich in nutrients that boost eye health, such as leafy greens, orange-colored vegetables and fruits like cherries and strawberries, and fish like salmon.
  • Properly managing other conditions, such as diabetes, that can exacerbate cataracts.
  • Wearing sunglasses that filter out harmful UV rays.
  • Regularly seeing an eye doctor to facilitate the early detection of cataracts.

Despite these precautionary steps, sometimes the symptoms of cataracts can still “sneak up” on you. Take our quick assessment to determine if you might be experiencing cataract symptoms.

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