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What are the symptoms of cataracts?

man sensitive to the bright light, which is a symptom of having cataracts

You probably won’t notice any symptoms during the earliest stages of cataract development. Cataracts can quietly progress for years before they affect your vision.

Blurred or cloudy vision is often among the first signs of cataracts. Cloudy vision can make it seem like you’re looking through a hazy piece of glass.

Other early signs of cataracts include colors that look dull, washed out or yellowed.

Since cataracts eventually affect your quality of vision, you might find yourself needing to update your eyeglass prescription more often than usual. Glasses or contact lenses will quickly need to be replaced with new ones.

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Cataracts can eventually result in a sensitivity to light called photosensitivity. This can make sunlight or artificial light seem brighter and more glaring than you’re used to.

At night, light sensitivity also makes headlights and street lamps look brighter and more distracting, often appearing with visual “halos” around them. This goes hand in hand with worsening night vision — the ability to see in low light.

Cataracts often develop at different rates in each eye, so they can cause double vision or visual ghosting in one eye. These cause a dim “clone” image to appear slightly off center from the original image.

SEE RELATED: How a healthy diet can prevent cataracts

To summarize, cataract symptoms can include:

Illustrated by Laurie O'Keefe

  • Cloudy vision

  • Blurry vision

  • Colors that are less vibrant or yellowed

  • Vision prescriptions that need to be updated more often

  • Light sensitivity

  • Increased glare

  • Visual halos around lights

  • Worsening night vision and difficulty driving at night

  • Double vision, usually in one eye

When you should see a doctor

If you think you have a cataract, an eye doctor can perform a few simple tests to find out for sure. If you are diagnosed with cataracts, an ophthalmologist can help you develop a plan for treatment, such as traditional or laser cataract surgery.

If any of the above symptoms are severe, or you notice sudden changes in your vision, visit a medical professional as soon as possible.

READ NEXT: What do cataracts look like?

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