Signs & Symptoms of Cataracts

December 23rd, 2022

Your eye health and vision are invaluable. So, it is crucial to notice any changes in your sight. In this way, you can manage any problems before they become serious. Some conditions, such as cataracts, may slowly progress, but they can become severe if left unchecked and untreated. In fact, cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide.

At Swagel Wootton Eye Institute, we understand cataracts may be a significant concern amongst our patients. One of the best ways to catch them early is to receive regular eye exams. If you know the signs and symptoms of cataracts, you can notice their presence and book an appointment. Our eye care professionals can monitor their development and provide proper treatment. Let’s protect your eyes together!

What Are Cataracts?

cataract is a clouding crystalline lens

Your eye’s lens is critical for filtering and directing light properly. A cataract is a cloudy area affecting how light bends toward the retina. It causes blurry, hazy, or dim vision. In early development, there may only be slight vision problems. In advanced stages, cataracts can severely impact eyesight and cause complete vision loss.

Cataracts are a common condition affecting more than 24 million Americans. By 2030, researchers project that more than 38 million people will suffer from cataracts. At Swagel Wootton Eye Institute, we work towards reducing these numbers through early detection and customized treatments.

What Are the Types of Cataracts?

There are three types of cataracts, characterized by their specific location in the eye.

Nuclear Cataracts

Nuclear cataracts, also known as nuclear sclerotic cataracts, appear in the center of the lens. Typically, patients notice a gradual thickening, hardening, and yellowing in this area. Over time, cataracts spread to other lens zones.

Individuals affected by nuclear cataracts may not see an immediate change in vision, even if there are physical changes to the eye. In fact, they may even note their vision improves temporarily. However, as the condition worsens, they experience blurry images, focus issues, halos around lights, and faded colors.

Cortical Cataracts

Cortical cataracts appear on the outer lens boundaries. Gradually, they make their way into the inner reaches of the eye. Patients report distance impairments (near and far sight), dull colors, light glares, and hazy vision.

Posterior Subcapsular Cataracts

Posterior subcapsular cataracts develop on the back of the eye’s lens. It appears on the membrane surrounding the lens and holding it in place. When cataracts occur in this area, it impedes vision very quickly. If you have posterior subcapsular cataracts, you may have trouble with farsightedness, bright lights, and halos around light.

Early Signs of Cataracts

The early signs and symptoms of cataracts can be subtle. If you notice any of the following changes in your eye or vision, please consult one of our knowledgeable eye doctors at Swagel Wootton Eye Institute.

  • Cloudy or Fuzzy Spots: You may notice small, foggy, or fuzzy spots in your vision.
  • Double Vision: Double vision is a common, early symptom of cataracts.
  • Light Sensitivity: If you squint in reaction to bright light or sunlight, you may have cataracts. You may also experience headaches from bright light or light flashes (television, phone, or car headlights).
  • Halos or Glares: When you look at a light source in the dark, you may see halos, rings, or glare.
  • Reduced Nighttime Vision: Cataracts reduce the amount of light filtering through your eye. They can make it more difficult to make out objects in the dark.

Many people do not notice the early signs of cataracts or may not experience any symptoms. Your eye doctor can detect their growth during your routine eye exam. This way, we can treat them before you suffer any severe vision problems.

Risk Factors for Developing Cataracts

If you are worried about cataracts, it can be helpful to understand the factors increasing risks.

  • Age: Most cataracts are age-related conditions. People show signs and symptoms of cataracts after the age of 40, but the numbers increase significantly after age 60. More than half of Americans at age 75 have cataracts.
  • Diabetes: Cataracts are three to four times more common in patients who have diabetes. If blood sugar levels are constantly high, it can cause blood vessel damage. Likewise, it can increase glucose levels in the aqueous humor. If this persists, the lens will convert the glucose to sorbitol, which can negatively affect cells, leading to cataracts.
  • Family History: Genetics can play a part in the possibility of cataracts and their timing. If you have a family history of cataracts or any other medical condition, mention it to your eye doctor.
  • Trauma: Eye injuries and surgeries can impact lens’ cells. It may damage them or lead to their breakdown. As a result, cataracts may appear.
  • Sunlight: As Arizonans, we know the sun can damage our skin. Your eyes can also suffer damage from prolonged UV exposure, increasing the risk of cataracts.
  • Health Conditions and Medications: Certain health conditions and medications may increase the chances of cataracts. It is important to discuss any concerns with your eye doctor and your health care provider.
  • Smoking: Smokers are two to three times more likely to develop cataracts due to the damage inflicted on proteins of the lens.

What Are the Symptoms of Cataracts?

Do you have increased risk factors for cataracts? Worried about your vision or eye health? It is essential to look out for any signs and symptoms of cataracts and take note of any evolution. You can also take our helpful cataract self-test to determine if you are showcasing the common signs of cataracts:

  • Subdued Colors: Cataracts can add tinges of yellow or brown to your vision. You may see dim or muted colors as a result.
  • Reduced Nighttime Vision: It may be hard to navigate in the dark or see objects at any distance at night.
  • Light Problems: Office lights, reading lamps, headlights, or digital screens may cause eye sensitivity or pain, or headaches. A light in the dark may appear distorted or have a halo or glare.
  • Poor Depth Judgment: You may have trouble seeing fine details and judging depth correctly.
  • Distance Difficulties: The presence of cataracts can generate distance vision and distance focus issues. If you suffer from myopia or hyperopia, these conditions may become worse.
  • Eye Appearance: You may see yellow, brown, white, or gray patches forming on the eye.
  • Avoidance of Activities: People with cataracts may refrain from reading, watching television, and nighttime driving.
  • Prescription Changes: Do you frequently have to change eyeglasses or contact lenses prescription may mean you have cataracts.

As cataracts harden, you may have more difficulty seeing and more severe symptoms.

How Are Cataracts Diagnosed?

Our dedicated eye doctors can identify cataracts in a routine eye exam. Likewise, if you notice any signs & symptoms of cataracts, our team will perform tests to confirm the diagnosis and determine various details. Exams may include:

  • Visual Acuity Test: A common eye exam to establish vision impairment is the visual acuity test. It shows how well each eye can read letters at distances of varying sizes.
  • Slit-Lamp Exam: An eye care professional uses a slit lamp (an intense, bright light) to see the structures of your eye. It reveals your cornea, iris, and lens and any imperfections.
  • Retinal Exam: Your eye doctor dilates your pupils and uses a slit lamp or an ophthalmoscope to examine your eye and the back of your eye.

What’s the Treatment for Cataracts?

Most cases of cataracts are entirely treatable through surgery. There are two procedures, phacoemulsification and laser cataract surgery, that remove the affected lens and replace it with a clear, intraocular lens (IOL).

At Swagel Wootton Eye Institute, we have three excellent cataract surgeons on our team: Dr. Loan Ramsey, Dr. JoAnn Reed, and Dr. Lance Stutz. They have extensive knowledge and experience in performing precise cataract removal and artificial lens replacement. We use state-of-the-art equipment to complete either form of cataract surgery:


The cataract surgeon creates a small incision in the eye and then uses a special ultrasonic handpiece to break up the cloudy lens. They suction the small pieces out of the eye. Once removed, they place and position an artificial lens. The entire procedure takes around 15 minutes from start to finish.

Laser Cataract Surgery

The cataract surgeon uses advanced equipment and software to map the eye’s surface, recording the finest details. Then, they use the map and computer-assisted lasers to make a cut in the eye and remove the cloudy lens precisely and quickly. Once complete, the surgeon places and positions the artificial lens. They employ intraoperative aberrometry to personalize vision results. A laser eye surgery takes between 15 and 20 minutes to complete.

Intraocular Lenses (IOLs)

Whether patients undergo phacoemulsification or laser cataract surgery, they have their choice of intraocular lenses (IOLs). These artificial lenses replace your eye’s natural lens and restore crystal-clear vision. At our clinic, we have multiple types to meet your needs and preferences:

  • Monofocal: Monofocal lenses have one focusing distance (near, intermediate, or far distances).
  • Toric: Toric IOLs may be an excellent choice if patients wish to correct astigmatism.
  • Multifocal: Multifocal IOLs have multiple focusing distances (near and far distances). PanOptix® Trifocal Lens is one of our popular options.
  • Clearview multifocal IOL
  • Light adjustable IOLs which can be focus adjusted after surgery with light treatments

Causes of Cataracts

Scientific researchers and medical professionals continue to look into the causes and contributing factors of cataracts. Currently, researchers understand that most cataracts form after the breakdown of cells, proteins, lipids, and other fibers in the eye. Much of this damage occurs naturally throughout a lifetime, explaining why cataracts are so prevalent as people age. Additionally, damage can occur due to injury, surgeries, UV exposure, health conditions, and medications. As such, certain people may be more at risk of developing cataracts than others.

When to See a Doctor

Your clear, sharp, and vibrant vision is precious. Be sure to see an eye doctor about cataracts as soon as you notice any vision changes. At Swagel Wootton Eye Institute, we will take your eye concerns seriously and perform a thorough evaluation. We will then make an official diagnosis, discuss your options and decide on the best course of action together.

Never compromise on eye care; schedule an appointment with us today!