Stages of Cataract Symptoms - Cataract Progression

If you pay attention to eye health, you’ll almost certainly have heard of cataracts. This common eye condition is most often associated with people over the age of 40, although they can occur at any time.

​​​​​​​As they develop, they have the potential to permanently alter the quality of your vision, preventing you from seeing clearly and affecting your ability to live life to the fullest. Fortunately, the condition can be treated.

What causes cataracts?

Cataracts usually occur when the natural proteins found within the lens of the eye start to change due to the aging process. As these proteins change, they start to clump together, blocking the light that filters through the lens of the eye. This causes patches in your field of vision. Many people liken cataracts to trying to see through frosted glass.

Cataracts are a progressive condition which means that without treatment, your vision will get worse over time. In the case of age-related cataracts, the condition usually progresses slowly over a number of months or years.

While some patients can be tempted to wait until their vision is sufficiently affected, you may also undergo surgery to fully restore your vision at any stage of cataract development.

causes of cataracts

What are the stages of cataracts?

There are predominantly four stages of cataracts. These are:

Early cataract. This refers to the very beginning stages of cataracts. At this point, the lens of the eye remains clear, but the ability to focus between near and far vision has started to become compromised, which occurs as a result of the inflexibility of the lens that happens with age. At this stage, you may experience very slight blurred vision, mild eye strain, and some early light sensitivity.

Immature cataract. By this stage, proteins will have started to cloud the lens of the eye, making it opaquer than before. You’ll probably be prescribed prescription, anti-glare lenses to help improve your vision. You may also need brighter lights to help you to see clearly.

Mature cataract. You will definitely notice that your vision has become significantly compromised by this stage, and even using prescription lenses and other visual aids is unlikely to provide you with enough improvement to enjoy the best possible quality of life. Your eyes may even look milky in appearance. This is the optimal point at which cataract surgery can be performed.

Hypermature cataract. The final stage of cataracts, not only will your vision be almost completely obscured but the lens will also have hardened, making it harder to remove during cataract surgery. However, without treatment to remove the lens, you may experience inflammation and pressure within the eye which could result in damage to the optic nerve – a condition broadly known as glaucoma.

What is cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery is universally accepted to be the best way to treat cataracts and permanently improve your vision. Countless cataract surgeries are performed across the United States every year and the procedure can be performed under local anesthetic. The procedure involves a small incision being made into the eye which is used to remove the clouded lens. This is then replaced with an artificial alternative called an intraocular lens or IOL for short. There are many different types of IOL and your cataract surgeon will help you to decide which one is right for you.

If you have other questions about cataract progression, or if you’d like to schedule an appointment to discuss your vision, please contact our New York eye expert today.