If you’ve ever been a dog owner, you know the telltale signs of your pet’s poor vision — that milky look in the lens of the eye that says cataracts are developing. If only it were that easy to determine when our own vision is declining.
There is no single foolproof way for you to judge whether you have cataracts, and in the early stages, you won’t even notice them. But certain changes in vision are warning signs that cataracts may be developing.
1. Blurry, hazy, and/or clouded portions of your vision, especially outdoors.
You’re with a group of friends on vacation, admiring the view. Everyone is oohing and aahing, but somehow, the marvels they see aren’t that sharp to your eyes. Or they’re seeing things you’re not able to see. When it becomes clear that what’s in front of everyone else’s eyes isn’t visible to you, it may be due to cataracts.
2. Rays or streaks of light from car headlights in oncoming traffic.
Driving at night can be challenging as you age. But when your vision is distorted by what looks like tricks of the light — flares, or piercing beams of light that extend from headlights, street lights, stop lights or even reflective signs — these can distract you or temporarily blind you, making it harder to recover your vision quickly.
3. Increased sensitivity to sunlight.
You’re driving your car and the glare from the sky hurts, so you flip down your visor. You find yourself squinting in sunlight and can’t see as well as you used to. You won’t go outside anymore without a pair of sunglasses. Even if you’re just looking around, you hold your hand above your brows to shield your eyes from the light.
If you’re constantly doing these things, almost instinctively, you’re experiencing increased sensitivity to light.
4. Colors appear faded or are tinted with a yellowish cast.
Much like looking at an old photograph exposed to the sun, your vision can begin to lose color due to the cloudiness of cataracts. You may see less saturation of color, or there may be reduced contrast, or the overall tone may be yellowish, like a sepia filter has been placed in front of your eyes.
5. Greater difficulty seeing in dim light or at night.
Many of us grew up with a parent who’d complain, “Don’t read in the dark! Turn on a light so you can see better!” Now, as we get older, we may realize that the problems they expressed concern over were problems they encountered due to aging and vision loss. If you’re finding you need to use a higher-watt bulb to read by, or you can’t make out the labels in your CD collection stored in a far corner, or read the menu in your favorite dimly-lit romantic restaurant, that may be a sign of cataracts. Likewise, if you find that your eyes can’t distinguish shapes or pick out objects in a dark room, that can also be vision loss due to cataracts.
If you’ve experienced three or more of the five symptoms above, it’s definitely time to have an eye exam. You don’t have to live with reduced sight. It’s easy to regain clear, sharp vision, and if you’re diagnosed with cataracts, Medicare and most insurance companies will cover your cataract surgery.
Why live a life of anything less than full color and total clarity? Make an appointment with the professionals at Nielsen Eye Center and find out what you’ve been missing.