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Self Test for Cataracts: Signs & Symptoms to Look For

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Self Test for Cataracts: Signs & Symptoms to Look For

A close-up of a senior man holding his cell phone in his hand while squinting and touching his forehead, having difficulty seeing what is on the phone screen

Cataracts affect millions of Canadians, and as you age, they become more of a concern. You may already visit your optometrist for regular vision checkups, but there are steps you can take at home to test for early cataract symptoms.

Look for common cataract signs and symptoms, such as blurry vision, light sensitivity, fading colours, poor night vision, or halos. These symptoms could indicate an underlying problem and tell you it’s time to see your optometrist.

What Are Cataracts?

Cataracts are characterized by the clouding of the eye’s lens. Despite being a frustrating condition that may lead to total vision loss, cataracts are a normal part of aging, often found in those over 60. 

Cataracts occur when the proteins within your eye’s lens break down, causing cloudiness that blocks light from reaching your retina. Although this process occurs naturally, other factors can increase cataracts’ severity or cause them to develop earlier than normal.

Some health conditions or lifestyles that can affect your chances of developing cataracts include:

  • Genetics
  • Eye trauma
  • Diabetes 
  • Obesity
  • Sunlight exposure
  • Smoking or excessive alcohol consumption
  • High blood pressure
  • Glaucoma or retinal eye surgery
  • Some medications, such as steroids

Someone can also be born with cataracts, which are called congenital cataracts.

A grey-haired man is covering his eyes with his left hand, to shield light coming out of the computer screen.

Recognizing the Signs & Symptoms of Cataracts

While cataracts typically form in both eyes, they may not form evenly. As a result, you could notice symptoms first in one eye, and the other may make up the difference in focusing power. So, if you’re self-testing, focus on each eye individually and don’t overlook changes.

You can’t see your lens, so you’ll have to rely on changes in your vision. Watch out for any of these key indicators of cataracts:

Blurred Vision

Your vision will gradually blur. This could be especially apparent for distance vision, and it may get harder to read faraway road signs. You may require frequent updates to your prescription lenses or contacts.

If you already wear corrective lenses, this symptom may feel like a sensation of having a film over your eye that cannot be blinked away

Sensitivity to Light & Glare

Someone with cataracts could notice increased sensitivity to bright lights and glare. This could mean you need sunglasses on days when you’d typically be fine without them. And you may also have a sensitivity to artificial light.

For example, looking at oncoming headlights or streetlamps at night may be painful. 

Difficulty Seeing at Night

Cataracts will likely affect your low-light vision, making it challenging to see at night, impacting your ability to drive and increasing your risk of motor accidents. The first sign you may notice of this symptom, however, could be while reading.

If you need to use more light or brighter lights so you can read, it could be an early sign of cataracts.

Colour Vision Changes

As your lens clouds, it can affect how you see colours. As a result, you may notice food, signs, and even rainbows appear less vivid. Sometimes, they may begin to look yellow, as though someone has put a filter over the world.

You could also have trouble distinguishing between shades or hues.

Halos & Double Vision

Another sign of cataracts you may notice at night are halos. These are bright rings around lights that only you can see. They’re common for those recovering from laser correction, but they often fade over time. Unfortunately, for someone with cataracts, they’ll likely get worse.

How an Optometrist Tests for Cataracts

While noticing the signs of cataracts yourself is important, it’s best to have support. A regular comprehensive eye exam is essential in early cataract detection. Your optometrist may even be able to notice symptoms before you can. That’s why the Canadian Association of Optometrists suggests that adults over 64 have an eye exam yearly to maintain optimal eye health. 

Optometrists use advanced technology and techniques to diagnose and monitor cataracts. This may include a slit-lamp examination. A slit-lamp is a microscope with a bright light that your doctor uses to examine the eye’s inner structures. Cataracts cause a distinctive clouding around the lens’s edge, centre, or back, which your optometrist can see with a slit lamp.

Your eye doctor can also test your visual acuity using a chart or computerized measurements. These tests measure your ability to see clearly at different distances, helping detect cataract-related vision changes.

To rule out other eye conditions that could affect your vision, such as glaucoma or retinal detachment, your optometrist may also examine other structures in your eye during the exam.

Visit Annik Eye Care for a Cataract Exam

You can take control of your eye health by recognizing the signs and symptoms of cataracts and seeking prompt medical attention. While self-testing is a great way to be mindful of your vision, our eye care team at Annik Eye Care has the tools and knowledge to look deeper.When cataracts threaten your vision, a doctor typically recommends surgery to restore your vibrant vision. So, if you suspect cataracts are beginning to affect your vision, take the proactive step and book an eye exam today!

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