SILENT SIGNS YOU MAY HAVE CATARACTS
They are the leading cause of vision loss in people over 40, but the symptoms can be difficult to recognize
CATARACTS—cloudy or opaque areas on the crystalline lens of the eye that develop over time— affect more than 2.5 million Canadians. Most cases aren’t caught until they’ve progressed, because cataracts are painless and the loss of sight is subtle. Here’s what you should know.
1. CLOUDY OR BLURRY VISION
With cataracts, you might have a localized blurred spot or a generalized decrease in vision. “Blurred vision is the number one symptom,” says Dr. Rosa Braga-Mele, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Toronto. “Most patients complain of a decrease in vision, but cataracts can creep up on you—some patients don’t even realize it’s happening at first.” Because cataracts are difficult to differentiate from other diseases, such as glaucoma, you should consult your optometrist if you become aware of these changes.
2. DECREASED COLOUR PERCEPTION
Due to the clouding of the eye, colours can become increasingly muddy. “Real” whites will appear more yellow in comparison. However, this occurs at such a gradual pace that most patients won’t notice the difference until after cataract surgery. “Patients often comment following the procedure that they don’t
remember seeing such vibrant colours. In fact, we are just restoring the colour vision of their youth,” says Dr. Michael Nordlund of the Cincinnati Eye Institute.
3. SENSITIVITY TO LIGHT AND GLARE
You may realize that what used to be a comfortable level of light now makes you cringe. Lamps, headlights and the sun will become your nemeses, and the radiance emanating from them will fan out like a halo due to the fact that cataracts scatter much of the light entering the eye.
4. DIFFICULTY DRIVING AT NIGHT
Because cataracts make it difficult to balance the contrast between the darkness and the bright lights from oncoming traffic, most affected people will have trouble driving at night. If your eyes are extra sensitive to headlights and street lamps, or if you’re having issues reading road signs, you may want to get checked out, notes Dr. Kirsten North, an Ottawa-based optometrist and consultant, professional practice and health policy at the Canadian Association of Optometrists.
5. TROUBLE READING FINE PRINT
The lens inside the eye is comparable to a camera lens, focusing light onto the retina and letting us see things clearly both up close and far away. This lens is mostly comprised of water and protein, and the protein is arranged in such a way that it allows light to pass through. Because cataracts cause the protein to clump together, small print may become difficult to discern in the eye’s refractive mirror.
6. DOUBLE VISION
Diplopia, more commonly known as double vision, can be another silent sign of cataracts. However, this is not to be mistaken as the diplopia that comes from improper alignment of the eyes. The double vision, in this case, will occur when looking through one eye.