More than 24 million people in the U.S. have at least one cataract, according to the National Eye Institute, and that number is expected to rise over the next few decades as the baby boomers continue to age. Cataract surgery – removal of the clouded natural lens of the eye and insertion of an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) – is one of the most common surgeries performed today, and advances in surgical techniques and lens designs have enabled more patients than ever to experience successful outcomes following their procedures.
PREMIUM IOL TYPES
While the first generations of IOLs were fairly standard single-vision (monofocal) models, offering few enhancements to address individual vision needs and lifestyle differences, today’s premium IOLs are designed to provide better results for patients with a wide array of vision needs and preferences. As a result, premium IOLs can reduce the need for glasses; people with monofocal lenses typically must use glasses no matter what for clear vision at all distances.
MULTIFOCAL LENSES OR ACCOMMODATIVE LENSES
These lenses have vision “zones” or “rings” that enable clear vision at different distances, depending on where the eye is looking and how light is entering the eye. Eye muscles can move the lens forward and backward automatically to help sharpen vision. These lenses work best when implanted in both eyes, and it takes about two to three months for the brain to “learn” how to see clearly once the lenses are in place. While vision can be improved at a range of distances, glasses may still be needed for completely clear vision, especially at close distances.
Toric IOLs are monofocal lenses specifically designed to be used in patients with astigmatism, a condition that causes problems with both near and far vision. People with substantial astigmatism may also have a correcting procedure called limbal relaxing incisions at the same time their lens is implanted to help normalize the shape of the cornea for better results.
WHAT ABOUT MONOFOCAL LENSES?
In addition to these premium lenses, standard monofocal lenses may also be used in some patients. Monofocal IOLs are designed to correct for near, far or intermediate distances. People with monofocal lenses will need to wear glasses for clear vision at all distances. When both eyes have cataracts, one eye may receive an IOL for near vision while the other receives an IOL for distance vision. The brain often learns to “blend” the two lenses to achieve clearer vision at all distances, reducing or eliminating the need for glasses.
In some cases, IOL filters may also be recommended to help protect the light-sensitive retina at the back of the eye. Filters can reduce the amount of UV radiation that reaches the retina, offering a protective barrier that can reduce the risk of UV-influenced damage to the retina.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT LENS FOR YOUR NEEDS
Choosing a lens will depend on several factors, including your specific vision issues, how much you’re willing to rely on glasses and lifestyle habits, like whether your occupation or hobbies require require a significant amount of close-up work. It’s also important to understand that in most cases, lenses can be replaced if vision needs change over time, or if patients with monofocal lenses decide they would prefer a multifocal or accommodative lens (or vice versa).
Another factor for many patients is cost. While monofocal lens costs are usually covered by Medicare, the cost of premium IOLs is typically not covered, so discussing your options with your doctor prior to surgery can help ensue you get the best lenses for you budget. To help handle out-of-pocket costs associated with premium lenses, many medical financing companies offer payment plan options to help every patient get just the right lens for their needs.
At Sealy Eye Center, we perform a thorough assessment of each patient’s vision needs as well as a review of their personal medical history and other factors that can help identify the best lens option. And of course, we provide plenty of helpful information about each option to enable patients to make educated and informed choices based on their needs and preferences. If you’re having issues with your vision or if you’re interested in learning more about treatment options for cataracts, call Sealy Eye Center at (888)701-7487 and schedule an exam and consultation today.