Cataracts cause cloudy areas to appear on the eye’s lens. They can cause blurry and double vision. They may also cause a person to see faded colors and halos around lights.

Cataracts are a common vision issue in older people — about half of everyone over 80 is living with or had surgery to correct cataracts.

They can cause blurry or cloudy vision, affect color perception, and make driving more difficult at night.

This article reviews how cataracts affect vision, early and late symptoms, vision following surgery, and how to improve vision.

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Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy. The eye’s lens is typically clear. However, when it becomes cloudy, it is similar to looking through a dusty window or fog.

When a person develops cataracts, they may notice changes to their vision that can include:

  • seeing double
  • blurry or cloudy vision
  • extra sensitivity to light, which may be particularly bad at night, such as while driving
  • seeing faded or yellowed colors
  • frequent need to change contacts or glasses (due to frequent prescription changes)
  • seeing a halo around lights

At first, a person may not notice symptoms if they have mild cataracts since the affected area is small and may only cause a slight blurriness.

As the cataracts advance, the cloudiness affects a larger part of the lens. A person may notice more symptoms, including blurriness and sensitivity to light.

Doctors may describe cataracts as being in one of four stages. They include:

  • early cataracts
  • immature cataracts
  • mature cataracts
  • hypermature cataract

A person may notice the following symptoms based on how much of the lens the cataract affects:

StageSymptomsAffects daily life?Possible treatments
EarlyBlurry vision, glare from lights, eyestrain, trouble focusing on near or far objectsGenerally does not affect daily life.This stage may not need treatment.
ImmatureWorsening blurry vision, glare from lights, eyestrain, trouble focusing on near or far objectsA person may start to notice vision changes that moderately affect daily life.Corrective lens or surgery
MatureNoticeable blurry vision, glare from lights, eyestrain, trouble focusing on near or far objects, and colors lose their vibrancy. People will notice changes in their vision that may negatively impact their daily lives.Surgical intervention
HypermatureSignificantly impaired vision, color changes, and sensitivity to light along with hardened, dense lenses; possible inflammation leading to glaucomaA person will have significant difficulty seeing.Surgical intervention

Cataract surgery is considered by some to be one of the most successful medical treatments. However, if people have additional issues that affect their eyes, such as glaucoma or macular degeneration, the surgery will not treat those conditions.

In some cases, surgery can lead to symptoms and issues as a side effect of the procedure. A person should let the doctor or healthcare team know if they develop symptoms following surgery, such as:

  • bleeding from the eye
  • any kind of discharge from the eye, which may signal an eye infection
  • pain that does not improve with pain medications
  • swelling in the eye
  • vision loss
  • blurred vision
  • excessive light sensitivity

It is also possible that a person’s vision may become cloudy or blurry again within weeks to years following the procedure. Doctors refer to this as posterior capsular opacification or secondary cataract, a common complication after surgery.

This condition occurs due to a membrane called the posterior capsule becoming cloudy following cataract surgery. If it occurs, a person may need laser surgery to correct the puncture of a hole in the membrane and improve cloudy vision.

If this occurs, a person should talk with a doctor. In some cases, people may need additional treatment to further help vision or treat complications from the surgery.

Read more about cataract surgery recovery.

Cataract surgery is like other procedures in that a person will need time for their eyes to heal fully. It can take several weeks to recover fully.

A person can help their eyes recover and avoid complications by taking the following steps:

  • using eye drops as directed by a doctor
  • avoiding rubbing their eyes
  • not getting soapy water in the eyes
  • wearing a protective shield when sleeping
  • returning to their activities following the doctor’s recommendations

Dcotros also recommend people not get anything dirty near the operated eye and not go swimming for 4–6 weeks.

Cataracts can cause a person’s vision to become blurry, sensitive to lights, and less able to see vibrant colors. It may start barely noticeable at first and gradually get worse over time.

Once significant vision impairment occurs, a doctor will need to perform cataract surgery to remove the lenses and replace them with clear synthetic ones. Most people will notice improved vision following surgery.