Cataract Symptoms

Cataract Symptoms

cataract symptoms include glare

Glare from Cataract Symptoms is like having a dirty windshield

Cataract symptoms range from just annoying to total blindness at the most advanced stages of the cataract. For improved vision, check out Colorado cataract surgeons.


One of the most common cataract symptoms is glare.  The lens of your eye is made up of proteins.  They are a special type of protein that is arranged in a very organized and repeated pattern that allows light to pass through cleanly without being scattered.

As you age, the proteins denature and the regular pattern of organization changes.  The less regular pattern of protein scatters light.  Light scatter makes it very hard to see when you are staring at a bright light like a head light at night.

Just to illustrate the effect of light scatter on your vision, consider what it is like to have a slightly dirty windshield on you car.  It doesn’t bother you at all until you turn directly into the bright light of a setting sun.  The light is scattered by the dirty windshield and all of a sudden you can hardly see a thing.  Glare causes this same thing with your lens, and can compromise your vision, especially where there is more sun. Colorado cataract surgeons can help their patients in an individualized way

Those that have to drive regularly at night choose to have their cataracts removed at an early stage to cure this symptom.  Those that can decrease or eliminate night driving can often postpone their surgery until other symptoms develop and vision worsens.

driving with cataract glare

Glare with Driving from Cataract Symptoms

Distorted Colors

Another Cataract symptom is color distortion.  The natural proteins of your lens are clear when you are born.  As you age and the proteins denature, they turn yellow in the early stages of cataracts.

Each eye exam, your eye doctor documents the amount of yellowing in your lens on a scale from +1 to +4.  We call this yellowing “nuclear sclerosis.”

In the earliest stages of cataracts with a +1.5 of nuclear sclerosis, your color vision would be mildly distorted.  Usually you would not notice this because it comes on so slowly.  At this stage it is like wearing yellow sunglasses all day and night. As the cataracts grade progresses to a +2 it is like wearing dark yellow sunglasses.

The first thing most patients notice after cataract surgery is that the colors are so brilliant and vibrant again.  This is because the cataract surgery has removed the yellow lens and they are now looking through a clear implant that relieves the cataract symptoms of color distortion.

blurry vision and glare

Trouble Seeing Road Signs Until Right Upon Them

Blurry Vision

As the cataracts reach the +2 to +2.5 level most notice blurry vision.  For example, it would be common for patients to complain that they can’t see signs when driving until they are right on top of them.  At this stage, most that drive consider their cataract symptoms untenable and request cataract surgery. Colorado cataract surgeons can help with bright driving conditions especially. They also complain that they can’t read the streaming scores and writing at the bottoms of their TV.

If left untreated, the cataracts turn from yellow to brown as they reach the +3 to +3.5 stage.  It is like trying to look through a brown bottle.  In this stage, their vision is very poor.

Past this stage the lens becomes “hypermature.”  If the cataracts begin to liquefy in its outer layers it turns white so that patient cannot see anything but light.  If they do not liquefy, they turn a reddish brown or black like a marble, profoundly affecting vision.  There are thousands of patients in third world countries that are blind from cataracts symptoms like these.  Their vision is so poor that they have to be lead around by the hand.

Water Cleft

Some patients develop small water clefts or droplet in their lens as the outer layers of the cataracts liquefy.  These water clefts cause blurry vision and glare.  It is like having rain on your windshield.  Even though the rain is clear water, it distorts your view through the windshield.  This is what water clefts do to your vision.


As cataracts thicken, it starts to change your glasses prescription.  If you are farsighted, with starts to decrease your prescription back to zero so it could seem like your vision is getting better at first.  If it keeps going, you will pass zero and become nearsighted.

If you are nearsighted to start out, your prescription could start becoming even more nearsighted.  The early cataract symptoms can often be managed by Colorado cataract surgeons by merely changing your glasses to keep up with these changes in vision.

Astigmatism and Double Vision

The changes in your lens could cause an irregular pattern in your cataracts that could cause astigmatism, or if more pronounced, even double vision.  If you cover one eye and have double vision in the uncovered eye, then you have double vision caused either by astigmatism or cataract.  If you have double vision only present when both eyes open then this is not from cataract symptoms, but instead, your eyes aren’t pointing the same direction.

Astigmatism can come from either your cataracts or from the shape of your cornea.  If cataracts cause your astigmatism, then cataract removal would cure this problem.  If your astigmatism comes from your cornea, then removing the cataracts would not cure this problem unless you choose a toric intraocular lens

Cataract Symptoms from a Surgeon’s Perspective

Each eye exam visit we document your vision with the best glasses prescription we can achieve and notice the amount of nuclear sclerosis you have.  As the yellowing reaches the 1.5+ stage I usually mention the presence of mild cataracts to my patients and assure them that the cataracts will not need attention for several years.  We also begin asking you about each specific cataract symptom like night glare. Colorado cataract surgeons also account for more glare than normal affecting your vision.

Glare Testing

We Colorado cataract surgeons measure your glare with an instrument called a “BAT.”  This projects a light at your eye to simulate the effect of a headlight at night.  With this bright light shinning in your eye, we have you to read the eye chart to see if your vision worsens with glare.

I also like to perform a light scatter/visual quality test called the HD analyzer.  This shows us exactly how much light scatter is decreasing your vision.

When is it Time for Cataract Surgery?

Over the years, cataract symptoms worsen and we can no longer get you to see 20/20, no matter what we do with your glasses. Let’s say you are 20/30 best corrected in dim light but your vision drops to 20/50 with BAT glare test. As Colorado cataract surgeons, we would ask if glare is affecting your vision and your life. If you don’t notice much glare, then you would probably reach the decision to put off cataract surgery another year until you have more cataract symptoms.

By the next year, your vision would have decreased to 20/40.  The glare test would show 20/70 and you would probably come in complaining of glare at night.  In this scenario, you would probably be eager to relieve each cataract symptom with help from some of the best Colorado cataract surgeons to repair your vision.

The process is completely individualized by Colorado cataract surgeons.  Some patients have significant cataract symptoms with mild cataracts while others with few symptoms even with more advanced cataracts.  This is due to differences in type, lifestyle, visual requirements, personality, and where you live. Colorado cataract surgeons know that glare affects more people in our part of the country than elsewhere.  Our exam will let us know if the cataracts are finally bad enough that insurance would help pay.  That is stage one.  Then we wait until they are bad enough that you feel it is time.

If I can answer any other questions about cataract symptoms, please schedule a time to meet with me or post a comment below.

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