The early signs of a cataract are subtle, so a person may not realize they have one. Only as the cataract matures does someone begin to experience mild cloudy or blurry vision.

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Even if symptoms are mild, it is essential to speak with a doctor, as cataract symptoms increase in severity over time. The sooner a doctor knows about a cataract, the more effectively they can monitor and treat it.

Generally, as symptoms progress, a person may notice objects appear blurry and colors are faded. They may also find it challenging to see in low-light conditions, especially at nighttime.

Read on to learn about the early signs of cataracts, diagnosis, causes, treatments, preventions, and frequently asked questions.

Often people do not know they have a cataract until it grows. As the cataract gets bigger, they may experience the following:

  • cloudy or blurry vision
  • double vision
  • changes in color vision, objects appear faded or seem more yellow
  • poor vision at night
  • light sensitivity, particularly in bright sunshine
  • seeing a halo around light sources

As symptoms progress, a person may need to change glasses more frequently. Double vision sometimes goes away on its own as the cataract gets progresses.

If a doctor suspects a person has a cataract, they will perform a dilated eye exam. The exam is painless and includes these tests:

  • Visual acuity test: This measures how well a person sees letters at varying distances.
  • Visual field test: This tests how well a person sees objects in every sector of their visual field.
  • Eye muscle function test: This test gauges the alignment of the eyes in various positions of gaze.
  • Pupil response test: This checks to see if the nerve pathways are intact.
  • Tonometry test: This test measures the pressure in the eyes.
  • Pupil dilation test: This helps the doctor see inside the eye.

People who should receive a dilated eye exam every 1–2 years include:

  • anyone who is over 60
  • anyone who is of African American descent and over 40
  • anyone with a family history of glaucoma

If a person has diabetes or high blood pressure, they may need more frequent dilated eye exams.


A cataract often develops due to changes in the eye as people get older. The proteins in the lens start breaking down and clumping together, which can start happening from the age of 40. As a person gets ages, the lens absorbs water, changing the shape of the lens.

The treatment a person receives for their cataract depends on its severity.

For mild symptoms, a person may need the following:

  • brighter lights at home
  • anti-glare (refractive) glasses
  • a magnifying lens for reading and other close-up activities
  • a stronger eyeglasses prescription

When symptoms progress and affect a person’s quality of life, a doctor will likely suggest surgery to remove the cataract.


To prevent or delay a cataract from forming, a person should:

  • wear sunglasses or a hat to protect their eyes from the sun
  • wear protective goggles when using power tools or playing some sports
  • follow a balanced diet
  • quit smoking

Common cataract questions include:

What does cataract vision look like?

When a person has a cataract, they may experience blurred vision. They may also report being unable to see well at night or in low-light conditions.

A cataract can also affect color perception, so what people see may appear more faded. Strong sunlight can also feel uncomfortably bright.

What age do cataracts usually start?

Cataracts can start developing when people are 40 years old. Cataract risk generally increases with age. However, the risk increases further if a person smokes, drinks a lot of alcohol, and has certain underlying health conditions.

Other risk factors include:

  • spending time in the sun without eye protection
  • having eye injuries
  • taking certain medication

How long does it take to go blind from cataracts?

Cataracts are the leading cause of reversible vision loss in the United States. The time it takes for someone to go blind depends on how quickly the cataracts progress. Risk factors, such as underlying illnesses, can affect this.

Cataract treatment is widely available, though insurance coverage and cost are common barriers.

Read more about Medicare and cataract surgery.

Can cataracts resolve on their own without surgery?

A cataract will not heal on its own. If an underlying condition exacerbates the cataract, for example, diabetes, improved diabetes management can help slow progression.

The only treatment that can restore a person’s vision is removing the cataract with surgery.

During the early stages of a cataract, a person may not experience any symptoms. As the cataract matures, initial symptoms typically present as blurred or cloudy vision. Some people may even notice changes in how they see color.

More often than not, a cataract develops as a person gets older. The reason for this is that the proteins in the lens begin to break down and clump together. with advancing age the size, shape, color, and transparency of the lens changes. It is these changes that cause visual symptoms in individuals with cataracts.

Cataracts do not resolve on their own and typically require surgery when they begin to seriously affect a person’s vision. Wearing sunglasses and protecting the eye from injury are two ways of reducing the risk of a cataract developing.