Do Cataracts Affect Color Perception?

February 23rd, 2024

Our eyes are the windows to the colorful world in which we live. But as we age, certain conditions can compromise our ability to appreciate the vivid hues surrounding us. Cataracts are one such common condition, affecting the vision of more than 24 million Americans over age 40 and nearly half of all Americans by age 75.

What Are Cataracts?

Cataracts occur when the eye’s clear lens becomes cloudy due to the breakdown of proteins called crystallins. The lens works with the cornea to focus light entering the eye to the retina, which turns light into electrical signals that travel through the optic nerve to the brain. The brain then translates these signals into the clear, colorful images we see. Cataracts interrupt this process, causing blurred vision and significantly impacting our perception of colors.

How Cataracts Affect Color Vision

Cataracts typically develop slowly over the years and are often unnoticeable until decades later. Early symptoms can indicate the presence of cataracts and often include changes to how we interpret color.

Color Desaturation

One of the primary impacts of cataracts on color perception is desaturation — a reduction in the intensity and vibrancy of colors. Vivid and bright colors appear dull, faded, or muted.

Yellowing Effect

As cataracts progress, the proteins that clump together to form the cataract may turn yellow and introduce a tint to our vision. This tint casts a warm and muted hue over the entire visual field and causes colors to appear more yellowish or brown.

Altered Colors

Cataracts can also make it challenging to distinguish between certain hues. As colors become dull and yellow, it may become difficult to differentiate darker shades, such as blues, purples, and browns.

Impact on Daily Life

Cataracts’ impacts on color vision extend beyond aesthetics to daily activities. Career execution — especially for those in art-focused or medical careers, for example — can be significantly impaired. From appreciating art and nature to performing daily tasks like driving, coordinating outfits, and grocery shopping, the toll of color distortion can contribute to a decreased quality of life.

Cataract Surgery Corrects Color Changes

Without treatment, cataracts can eventually culminate in vision loss or even lead to blindness. But cataract surgery can restore your vision and reintroduce you to the full spectrum of colors. In a quick outpatient procedure, an eye surgeon removes the clouded lens and replaces it with a clear, intraocular lens. Our cataract self-test can help determine if it’s time for an evaluation.

Trust Arizona’s Cataract Experts

Everyone deserves to live in a vibrant world. At Swagel Wootton Eye Institute, we’re here to help you experience and appreciate a world of color. Our expert team of world-class surgeons prioritizes your safety and the quality outcome you deserve. Contact us today to take the first step in your cataract correction journey.