Cataract surgery removes the eye’s damaged natural lens, and replaces it with an artificial one. Selecting which lens is right for you requires a thorough understanding of the options.
Over three million cataract surgeries are performed each year in the United States, making it the most common eye surgery. But patients may not know that they have a choice when it comes to the intraocular lens (IOL) that replaces a cataracted lens. Today’s modern lenses can correct for many different eye problems while eliminating the need for contacts or glasses.
How IOLs Work
IOL’s are made of plastic and largely replicate the function of an organic lens. After the natural lens is removed, an incision is made in the cornea, the clear outer layer of the eye. The IOL is then inserted through the center of the iris, taking the place of the damaged lens.
IOLs can be sorted into a few broad categories: monofocal, multifocal, and toric (appropriate for astigmatism). No more coke-bottle glasses – patients are now able to achieve full functional vision with reading glasses or even no glasses at all. The implantation procedure for each lens is the same, but each lens type provides specific advantages that patients should consider before going forward with surgery.
Monofocal lenses are the original replacement for cataracted lenses. They are almost always covered by insurance and remain the standard option for cataract surgery today.
Monofocals have a fixed focal distance. Patients can choose from near-focus, mid-focus or distant-focus lenses depending on their needs and can then supplement their vision with glasses or contacts. Patients that read a lot will tend to select near-focus lenses while a patient who drives frequently may prefer uncorrected vision for distance.
As the name suggests, multifocal IOLs allow patients to focus at multiple distances. The technology works much like bifocal glasses, with one half of the lens working for distance vision and the other for near vision. The brain naturally finds the correct focus depending on the task the person is performing.
In many cases, the multifocal lens will provide the convenience of reading things like menus, wristwatches, and cellphones without the need for eyeglasses.
As wonderful as multifocal lenses are, patients should know that multifocal lenses are more expensive than monofocal lenses and can sometimes result in haloing (which will lessen over time). Multifocal lenses are ideal for patients with healthy eyes, and may not work as well if you have moderate to severe astigmatism or cornea problems.
For patients with astigmatism, toric IOLs are ideal. Toric lenses have different powers in different areas of the lens to accommodate variations in corneal shape. The eye surgeon will determine the best power and orientation of the lens within the eye.
Toric lenses are proven to be incredibly effective at decreasing astigmatism. 98% of patients had 0.75 D or less residual astigmatism after surgery, allowing them to acceptably see without glasses.
Since the effectiveness of a toric lens is highly dependent on the skill of the surgeon implanting it, patients considering astigmatism correction should seek out a doctor with significant experience implanting toric IOLs.
The Next Step
If you’re considering cataract surgery, one of the most important decisions that you and your doctor will make is which intraocular lenses are best suited to your needs. But first, you’ll need to choose the right doctor.
The highly trained cataract specialists and eye care experts at Swagel Wootton Eye Institute have the knowledge and experience to help patients make the right decisions when it comes to intraocular lenses. Schedule a consultation with one of our specialists today.