What Is The First Sign Of Cataracts?

Cataracts happen to every person at some point in their life. It is a natural part of the aging process. You may be curious as to what the first signs of cataracts are. This can vary depending on the individual person, but typically it is some disturbance of your vision. In early cataracts, you will not be able to see the cataract in a mirror. This only happens in very late stage cataracts. In the earliest stage of cataracts, when a patient has a trace cataract, there may be no symptoms at all. Let’s take a look at some early signs of cataracts that patients may notice.

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Experiencing eye glare is a common symptom of cataracts. What is eye glare? Glare is when a person looks at a light and sees halos (circles) or streaks around the light. Patients with glare have trouble seeing in bright light. This symptom of cataract may be particularly noticeable when you are driving and you have difficulty looking at the headlights coming towards you. A specific type of cataract, called a cortical cataract, is more likely to cause eye glare than a nuclear sclerotic cataract, which is another type of cataract. Glare is also a common symptom of a posterior subcapsular cataract.

Patients can have multiple types of cataracts at the same time. Many patients who have cortical cataracts are also likely to have nuclear sclerosis as well. Posterior subcapsular cataracts are also associated with steroid use.

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In addition, to difficulty with dealing with bright lights, patients with early cataracts can have difficulty in low light also. This may be most noticeable when you are driving at night.

Decrease In Contrast Sensitivity

Contrast sensitivity reduction is also a common early symptom of cataracts, and can happen in any type of cataract.

Blurry Vision

All cataracts will cause blurry vision eventually, but in most cases, this is not the first sign of a cataract. The exception to this is in the case of posterior subcapsular cataracts which tend to cause blurry vision quicker than sclerotic nuclear cataracts. Blurry vision in nuclear sclerotic cataracts can happen for two reasons. The first reason is that the cataract itself is becoming denser and therefore becoming more difficult to see through. The other reason is that a nuclear cataract can sometimes cause a patient’s prescription to change. This means that the glasses or contacts you once saw clearly in are no longer working for you. In some cases, an ophthalmologist can fit you for a new pair of glasses that still corrects you to very good vision, but in other cases, cataract surgery may be the only way to see better.

Related: Sleeping Position After Cataract Surgery

What Is The First Sign Of Cataracts: Take Home Points

The earliest signs of cataracts can be subtle such as difficulty with glare, trouble with contrast, or difficulty seeing in low light situations. Blurry vision that is present all the time tends to happen later. The best way to be evaluated on if you have a cataract is to see an eye doctor.


Mäntyjärvi M, Tuppurainen K. Cataract in traffic. Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 1999 Apr;237(4):278-82. doi: 10.1007/s004170050233. PMID: 10208259.


Palomo-Álvarez C, Puell MC. Capacity of straylight and disk halo size to diagnose cataract. J Cataract Refract Surg. 2015 Oct;41(10):2069-74. doi: 10.1016/j.jcrs.2015.10.047. PMID: 26703281.


Cho YK, Huang W, Nishimura E. Myopic refractive shift represents dense nuclear sclerosis and thin lens in lenticular myopia. Clin Exp Optom. 2013 Sep;96(5):479-85. doi: 10.1111/cxo.12064. Epub 2013 May 23. PMID: 23700989.


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