Early Stages of Cataracts
Early symptoms of cataracts often include the development of glares and halos, or difficulty seeing at night. The initial symptoms are usually so slight and develop so slowly that people are not even aware of these changes. In fact, cataracts patients may seek treatment only after family members or close friends have pointed out that the patient seems to be having problems seeing. In some cases, patients may develop what is called “second sight.” This means your near vision actually improves before your eyesight starts to decline overall. During the early stages, many patients can offset vision loss with changes to their prescription eyewear.
As a cataract progresses, it causes more severe changes to your eyesight. Blurred vision, poor night vision, difficulty detecting colors, and light sensitivity will become more pronounced. The rate at which your cataracts develop will depend on several factors, including age, the use of certain medications, and smoking tobacco. Without treatment, patients will lose visual acuity to the point that they may have difficulty completing daily tasks and distinguishing details, such as facial features.
Doctors will typically recommend surgical treatment when your condition has started to affect your quality of life. If it becomes difficult to complete certain daily tasks, or you can no longer see faces or objects clearly, surgical intervention may be appropriate. Patients who put themselves or others at risk of injury when completing tasks that require good vision may be recommended for surgery. For example, patients who frequently drive at night should consider surgery sooner, since halos and glare can pose a serious risk for accidents.
Your eye doctor may also recommend the operation if you score poorly on one or more of your vision tests. Exams that measure your visual acuity, glare, contrast sensitivity, and ability to detect colors can shape the decision to undergo cataract surgery. Ultimately, the decision is entirely the patient’s. Your doctor is there to help you decide when surgical intervention would be most beneficial to your health and lifestyle, not to pressure you into treatment before you are ready.