By age 60, most people start to show symptoms of cataracts. The symptoms of cataracts cannot be prevented, but they can be treated. Initially, most cataracts are monitored and the patient’s glasses or contact lens prescription may be adjusted as necessary. If cataracts become significant enough that they limit a patient’s day to day life, an ophthalmologist will recommend cataract surgery. During cataract surgery, a surgeon removes the affected lens and implants an intraocular lens (IOL).
An intraocular lens is an artificial replacement lens usually made of acrylic or silicone. It typically also has an ultraviolet (UV) coating. Like prescription glasses or contacts, intraocular lenses come in a variety of focus powers. Before cataract surgery, the patient’s eyes are measured. The length and curve of the eyes will be used to set the focusing power of the replacement lenses.
There are many kinds of IOLs available.
Some of the most common types of IOLs include:
Regular monofocal IOLs are covered by Medicare and most insurance providers. Toric, multifocal, and accommodative IOLs are considered premium IOLs and are not covered by Medicare or insurance.
The type of IOLs you have implanted will determine whether you will need to wear glasses after surgery. Most people will begin to experience presbyopia, or loss of near-sighted vision, in their 40s. In many instances, the use of a multifocal IOL will reduce, if not eliminate entirely, the need for glasses after cataract surgery. You may also consider monovision (or blended vision). With monovision, one monofocal lens is set for near vision in one eye and one monofocal lens is set for distance vision in another eye. All IOLs have benefits and disadvantages that may impact you differently depending on your eyes and your lifestyle. Whichever type of IOL you choose, you may still use glasses for certain activities, such as driving at night or reading.
Whatever your vision needs, there is an intraocular lens for you. Your lifestyle will determine which lens will provide you with your best outcome. Speak with your ophthalmologist about your daily activities and vision goals. He or she can help you come to an informed decision about which lens is best for you.
Shunai Jiang, M.D. is an ophthalmologist at the Marietta Eye Clinic who specializes in cataracts and glaucoma. She serves the Kennestone, Canton, and East Cobb locations. Dr. Jiang studied at Jilin University in China and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, the home of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. She received her residency training in ophthalmology from University of Louisville and fellowship training in glaucoma from Emory University. She is a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Glaucoma Society. Read her full bio here.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. It describes itself as a “global community of 32,000 medical doctors who protect sight and empower lives by setting the standards for ophthalmic education and advocating for our patients and the public.” Its website is a great resource to learn more about how to care for your eyes.
The American Optometric Association (AOA) describes itself as the leading authority on quality care and an advocate for our nation’s health, representing more than 44,000 doctors of optometry, optometric professionals, and optometry students.
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