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What is the First Sign of Cataracts?: What You Should Know

Medically reviewed by Victor Paulino, MD, DPBO · Ophthalmology · Makati Medical Center

Written by Hazel Caingcoy · Updated Apr 11

What is the First Sign of Cataracts?: What You Should Know

Cataracts are a common vision problem caused by the hardening of the lens. The lens is the part of the eye that helps in focusing light on the retina. The retina is the layer of the eye that sends signals to the brain for vision. But what is the first sign of cataracts? 

What is the First Sign of Cataracts?

Cataract symptoms are usually common to all types of cataracts, but may vary depending on the severity and progression of the disease. 

Especially during its early stages, cataract symptoms can be mistaken for other eye diseases. Cataract is progressive and will worsen over time which is why regular eye check-up is very important. 

The most obvious sign of cataract is sclerosis or hardening of the lens.

In healthy eyes, the lens is clear and transparent. People with cataracts tend to have white or yellowish spots at the center or the sides of the lens. Your eye doctor can easily detect this during eye check-ups. 

A hardened lens is noticeable upon closer look in the eyes. The pupil, which is the black part in the center of the eye, looks like it is covered with a white or greyish film. 

Cataract Symptoms

Here are some of the most common cataract symptoms you should notice.

Sensitivity to light

What is the first sign of cataracts? It’s probably light sensitivity. People with cataracts tend to feel discomfort when looking at headlights, street lights, lamps, or any strong light source. 

Blurry vision

Once your lens hardens, light is blocked and scattered as it passes through the lens. Since light is not focused on the retina, vision becomes blurry. A person with a cataract has blurred vision from all distances, may it be near or far. 

A person with a cataract will notice that they can not see sharp images. They will also have difficulty seeing fine details. 

Difficulty reading

A person with developing cataracts might have difficulty reading. An average person can read a size 11 text at 35cm. This is usually the comfortable distance for reading a book. Normally a person can view a size 32 text at 1.5-meter distance, which is usually the size of texts in posters. 

A person with cataracts might find themselves having difficulty reading at any distance. Even if they read text close to their face, this might not help them in reading. Vision usually improves only when they squint. Squinting helps in focusing light into the retina. 

Fading colors

A person with a cataract will have difficulty distinguishing colors in their vision. When the lens hardens, it becomes brownish or yellowish. The discoloration in the lens also translates to yellowish and brownish hues in vision. It would feel like you are wearing yellow or brown-tinted glasses. Over time, blues and purples also become more indistinguishable. 

Difficulty seeing at night

People with cataracts will have difficulty seeing at night. Because light does not pass through the eye effectively, seeing in places where light is limited becomes a struggle.

Even if there is no or minimal light, a person with healthy eyes can still see shapes and silhouettes once they have adjusted to the darkness. People with cataracts tend to have difficulty seeing in the dark and adjusting to the darkness.

Need for brighter light

Cataracts hinder light from entering the eyes. People with cataracts tend to need more light when they are doing activities such as working on their desk, reading, or even day-to-day tasks such as cooking and cleaning

Frequent changes in the lens prescription

If a person has been changing his lens prescription too often, probably more than once in a year, then this could be a sign that they are developing cataracts.

A person with cataracts may develop myopia or nearsightedness. If the person is already nearsighted, to begin with, their prescriptions may go higher. On some occasions, patients with cataracts can also develop hyperopia or farsightedness

Double vision

If a person is developing cataracts, they will notice that they are seeing two of one thing. They may also see distorted images in their vision. It would seem that they are looking at something through a veil or images tend to look ghost-like. Double vision happens usually with just one eye, the eye affected by a cataract.


If a person is starting to see rings and glare from light sources such as lamps, bulbs, streetlights, and headlights, they might be developing cataracts. 

Glare is uncomfortable and might cause a person to tear up. Glare can hurt the vision and causes a person to be unable to see sharp images. This is because in cases of people with cataracts, light is scattered inside the eye. 

Poor Depth Perception

When a person has poor depth perception, they have difficulty estimating how thick an object is at a certain distance or how far an object is at a certain distance. This is mainly because cataracts can blur vision and make it difficult to recognize depth.

A person with cataracts might find it difficult to go up and down stairs or cross the street safely. 

Key Takeaways

Cataracts are one of the most common diseases that can cause vision impairment. What is the first sign of cataracts? It can either be blurred vision or light sensitivity or even both. Other symptoms of cataracts include difficulty seeing at night, frequent changes in glasses prescription, fading colors, and poor depth perception.  

Learn more about Cataracts here. 


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Victor Paulino, MD, DPBO

Ophthalmology · Makati Medical Center

Written by Hazel Caingcoy · Updated Apr 11

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