Cataracts are common over the age of 65. In fact, cataracts affect more than 240 million people worldwide. As cataracts develop, the lens of the eye, which is normally clear, becomes cloudy, which can cause a variety of issues with sight. During the early stages, cataracts can have little effect on vision. But as cataracts progress, symptoms may become increasingly noticeable. Unfortunately, as symptoms worsen, cataracts can interfere with everyday activities, making life more frustrating and less enjoyable.
It’s one thing to read a list of cataract symptoms, but when it happens to you or a loved one, the myriad ways these symptoms affect lifestyle becomes very real. In fact, there are many surprising ways cataracts interfere with everyday activities. Here are a few:
1. Difficulty enjoying reading a newspaper or novel
A common cataract symptom is blurry or cloudy vision. Some describe it as the sense of having a “film” placed over the eye(s). It makes it very difficult to see details clearly. It likely starts with simply needing more light than usual, but as cataracts progress, it may become increasingly challenging to read and write. For people who love to read the newspaper or to curl up with a great book, this can seriously impact everyday life.
2. Trouble eating and walking
A less common, but problematic cataract symptom is double vision. Seeing two of everything can make it particularly difficult to perform tasks that require coordination of the eyes with other muscle groups. Daily activities like eating and walking can be impacted when double vision is present. Even without the symptom of double vision, tripping or falling may be a concern because you can’t see details clearly like a rug or step.
3. Constraints on household activities
Simple things like cooking meals can be problematic if blurred and cloudy vision is present due to cataracts. When you can’t see clearly, you could miss key ingredients in your recipes. Tasks like doing laundry and cleaning the house become more difficult. Even things as common as glancing at the clock to see what time it is can become frustrating.
4. Inability to participate in hobbies
People with cataracts often report that colors appear dull and faded, sometimes described as having a yellow tinge. For those who enjoy spending time in nature, taking photographs or visiting art museums, being unable to enjoy vivid colors reduces the pleasure these activities used to bring. And of course symptoms of blurry and cloudy vision affects participation in hobbies like golf, fishing and sewing. In fact, dull or cloudy vision can impact most every pastime.
5. Difficulty driving at night
One of the biggest complaints among cataract patients is seeing halos around lights. As cataracts progress, night vision becomes more and more impaired. Over time it can become increasingly more difficult to drive after dark and for some, night driving becomes difficult.
6. Decreased independence
Having decreased vision unfortunately leads to decreased independence. When cataract symptoms are present, many people must rely on friends and family to help them read labels, perform household tasks and drive, especially at night.
While there is currently no known way to prevent age-related cataracts, avoiding risk factors such as excessive sunlight, smoking and unhealthy eating habits, may help slow their development. It’s also important to see an eye doctor every year even if your vision is clear and healthy. Early detection is imperative in the proper treatment of cataracts.
Fortunately, cataract procedures are among the most common and safe surgeries performed. Recent advances have allowed doctors to tailor new lenses to patients, reducing the need for eyeglasses after surgery.
If cataract symptoms are interfering with your everyday activities, talk to your doctor.