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Warning Signs Of Cataracts To Watch Out For

The eyes let you see the world. Permanent loss of vision can significantly affect the quality of life. However, most associated eye conditions can be stopped or slowed if detected early. Unfortunately, most eye condition symptoms are challenging to detect in the early stages, with most people seeking help after experiencing issues.

Over 94 million worldwide have untreated cataracts associated with moderate to severe vision impairment. Though cataracts are more common in older adults, there are some cases of congenital and infantile cataracts.

Knowing the warning signs of cataracts will go a long way in increasing the chances of early detection.

Importance of early cataract detection

Cataracts account for over one-third of the world’s blindness, with most cases being preventable. Cataracts detected early enough are treatable, preventing or slowing down vision loss.

Early detection of cataracts is also important in neonates and infants, as significant visual deprivation (staying too long without seeing) can lead to irreversible vision loss.

Research shows that children born with cataracts have 6 to 10 weeks before permanent vision loss. Children who develop cataracts after birth have a longer window before vision loss. Pediatric ophthalmologists can determine the best time for the removal surgery.

Warning Signs Of Cataracts In Adults

The visual significance of a cataract is determined by its size, density, position, and structure. Ophthalmologists pick the treatment depending on the type and degree of cataract progression. Early warning signs include:

  • Cloudy, foggy, or blurry vision. Cloudy vision is the most common sign of early-stage cataracts. Patients report seeing foggy, cloudy, or blurry spots in their fields of vision. The spots begin as small obstructions growing over time until daily activities become difficult to execute. Patients with growing cloudy vision should visit an ophthalmologist as soon as possible to improve their chances of recovery.
  • Sensitivity to bright light. During early-stage cataracts, bright light sources such as oncoming headlights or bright bulbs in a room become increasingly uncomfortable. You will find yourself squinting or closing your eyes. Similarly, you may develop headaches after encountering bright light sources.
  • Colors look faded or not as bright as they used to. Patients report darkening or dimming of their vision, with some noticing a brown or yellow tint in their vision. The dimming vision may not be present during the day due to light abundance from the sun, compensating for the dimming vision.
  • ‘Halos’ appearing around light sources (glare). As cataracts progressively harden the eye lens and induce cloudy vision, patients may notice halos and glare within their field of vision. Cataracts change the normal path of light by causing diffraction leading to the appearance of glare and ringlets around visible sources of bright light. The halos and glare are commonly visible during the day or when facing a bright light source. However, you can also see them at night.
  • Reduced visibility at night. Patients with early-stage cataracts report reduced nighttime vision. Older adults with cataracts may notice sudden dimness in their vision soon after it gets dark or when in poorly lit rooms.
  • Prescription changes in glasses (sudden nearsightedness). As vision becomes foggy, patients with cataracts using prescription eyewear might think their glasses or contact lenses are dirty. However, cleaning does not help, forcing them to obtain new glasses prescriptions. Similarly, cataract progression may induce additional refractive errors requiring changes in prescription. The sudden changes in prescriptions will continue as your vision becomes blurrier. Finally, cataracts progress to the extent that you cannot see well, even with glasses.
  • Double or ghosted vision. Double vision may not be noticeable during the earliest stage, especially in far-sighted patients having trouble focusing on near objects. Similarly, double vision can indicate many different conditions. However, closing one eye and seeing double images through the open eye may indicate cataracts.

Warning Signs Of Congenital And Infantile Cataracts

Children can be born with or develop cataracts soon after birth (congenital). In addition, some may develop the condition a few months or years later (infantile). Early signs of cataracts in infants and children vary from child to child. However, they have the following general symptoms:

  • Decreased vision in the affected eye. Parents and guardians can notice the progression of cataracts when their children need to hold items unnecessarily close to their faces to see them. The child’s inability to look directly at a person’s face or nearby objects is another early warning sign.
  • Whitening or clouding of the lens. Infants’ pupils are normally black, but cataracts change the color to grayish-white. The color change is a sign of cataracts and may occur in one or both eyes.
  • Light sensitivity. Parents may notice infants squinting or shielding their eyes in the presence of bright lights.
  • Wandering or cross-eye. Parents might notice a misalignment in their child’s eyes (strabismus) or repetitive movement of the eyes (nystagmus).
  • White or dark pupil reflex in photographs. When taking pictures, the reflection of light in the pupil makes a red glow appear in the pupil. The absence of the glow may indicate cataract formation in infants’ eyes. Additionally, if you shine a light on your child’s face, the pupils may appear white instead of black. This is another sign of cataracts.

Parents must note that some infants and young children may have cataracts with no visible signs. The children may function well with reduced vision. However, if one eye is more affected, you will notice increased dependency on the unaffected eye. Additionally, most early warning signs in infants are accidental signs, meaning they may not be noticeable unless they are in specific conditions.

Recommendation

During the earliest stages of cataract development, vision changes may not be easily apparent, which is why experts recommend going to the ophthalmologist regularly. Our ophthalmologists use specialized tests and machinery to detect cataracts, sometimes even before you notice any vision changes.

Therefore, regular eye checkups are necessary, especially for older adults. If you have or develop any of the above warning signs, book your appointment or share your concerns, and we will get back to you.

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