What Happens If Cataracts Are Left Untreated

May 31, 2023


Cataracts are a clouding of the eye lens that obstructs the passage of light. They occur naturally as we age and are caused by proteins binding together. Although most cataracts eventually require surgical removal, some people never reach that point of cataract development. Therefore, the outcome of leaving cataracts untreated will vary from person to person. 


Cataract Progression 

Cataracts generally follow a similar path of progression, but it’s impossible to predict how quickly a cataract will change. Age-related cataracts usually progress slowly, while those following an illness or injury may worsen more rapidly. It’s common to have one eye more affected by cataracts than the other. 

Age-based cataracts can begin to form in a person’s 40s or 50s, but rarely cause vision impairment before age 60. Many factors influence how fast cataracts develop, and the following can speed  progression: 

  • Diabetes
  • Taking corticosteroids
  • Eye surgery for other conditions
  • Eye injuries
  • Radiation treatments
  • Poor nutrition and obesity
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Extended and unprotected exposure to sunlight
  • Genetics

Dangers of Leaving Cataracts Untreated 

Untreated cataracts will worsen over time, leading to a slow loss of vision. Many people who opt out of surgical removal end up legally blind, and some will eventually become totally blind.  

Even mild cataracts can distort vision enough to make driving dangerous, especially at night. Any degree of vision loss can make the activities of daily life more difficult, resulting in falls or other accidents.  


What is a hyper-mature cataract? 

A hyper-mature cataract has been left untreated for so long that it turns pearly white. These cataracts are extremely hard, dense, and difficult to remove. However, removal is a must to avoid complete loss of vision.  


Cataract Treatment Options 

Changing your eyeglass prescription can sometimes improve vision when a cataract is worsening. Other people see no improvement with a new prescription. Adding an anti-reflective coating to your glasses may improve night vision if your cataracts are mild. 

However, Dr. Matzkin and Dr. Herron generally recommend scheduling cataract surgery soon after the lens clouding causes vision problems. Waiting months or even years allows time for cataract progression, which can make surgery a bit more complicated. 

Cataract surgery is a common and safe procedure with few complications. Though it can feel daunting to think about having surgery on your eyes, the outcome is almost always worth it. Watch these videos to see testimonials from Allied Eye patients to learn the truth about cataract removal and intraocular lens implants.  

Our friendly and knowledgeable Chattanooga eye care team would love to talk to you about any problems you’re having with cataracts. Simply call or text us at (423) 855-8522 to make an appointment and start your journey back to better vision today.