What are Intraocular Lenses? by Denise Johnson, M.D.

February 25, 2020

Dr. Johnson is an ophthalmologist and cataract specialist at the Marietta Eye Clinic.

Most people start to show symptoms of cataracts by age 60, but they may not notice symptoms for years. Changes in vision associated with cataracts are irreversible, but in most cases your ophthalmologist will recommend monitoring cataracts for a few years before treatment is necessary. If cataracts become so bad that they limit a patient’s day to day life, an ophthalmologist may recommend cataract surgery. During cataract surgery, an eye surgeon removes the cloudy lens and implants an artificial lens replacement.

What is an Intraocular Lens?

An intraocular lens (IOL) is an artificial lens used to replace a clouded lens that has been removed during cataract surgery. Intraocular lenses come in a variety of focus powers like prescription glasses and contacts. The length and curve of your eye will be measured before surgery and used to set the focusing power of your intraocular lens.

Intraocular lenses can be made of a variety of materials. The most common are silicone and acrylic. Intraocular lenses usually have a coating that protects your eyes from ultraviolet (UV) rays. This is beneficial because UV rays are a known cause of the breakdown of proteins in your eye that leads to cataract.

Types of Intraocular Lenses

If you and your ophthalmologist decide cataract surgery is the best option, there are four types of IOLs to consider.

Types of intraocular lenses include:

  • Monofocal: This is the most common type of lens implanted during a cataract surgery. It has one focal distance, like monofocal eyeglasses. Your ophthalmologist can set the IOL to focus for near-sighted, medium range, or far-sighted vision. You can also wear eyeglasses to complement your IOL-assisted vision if you experience both myopia and presbyopia.
  • Toric: Toric IOLs are monofocal lenses that also correct for astigmatism.
  • Multifocal: Like multifocal eyeglasses, multifocal IOLs have multiple focal zones. They allow you to see up close and far away with a single lens. If you have multifocal IOLs implanted, your brain will switch between the focal points.
  • Accommodative: An accommodative IOL most closely imitates your eye’s natural lens. Accommodative IOLs can move and change shape inside your eye to focus at different distances. When the ciliary muscle, the muscle that determines the curvature of the lens in your eye, contracts, the accommodative IOL will move like a natural lens.

Will I Still Need My Glasses After Cataract Surgery?

The condition of your eyesight before surgery and the type of intraocular lens implanted will determine whether you will need glasses after surgery.

Most people, if they do not already wear corrective lenses, will begin to experience loss of near-sighted vision in their 40s known as presbyopia. If you experience presbyopia but require no other corrective eyewear, a monofocal intraocular lens may be all you need. If you have trouble seeing up close and far away without glasses or contacts, you may choose to have multifocal or accommodative intraocular lenses implanted. Both will restore near- and far-sighted vision to some degree but may have limitations. You may still choose to use eyeglasses for some activities.

There is an Intraocular Lens for You

Whatever your vision needs, if you are considering having cataract surgery, there is an intraocular lens that will work for you. You can discuss your questions and concerns with your ophthalmologist and come to an informed decision about which lens is right for you.

More About Cataract Specialist Denise Johnson, M.D.

Dr. Johnson is an ophthalmologist at the Marietta Eye Clinic who offers comprehensive care and specializes in cataracts, dry eye, and cosmetic treatments. She serves the Acworth and Towne Lake locations. She is board-certified by both the American Board of Ophthalmology and the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. She received her undergraduate degree from Cornell University and her medical degree from the Temple University School of Medicine. She is professionally associated with the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Society of Cataracts and Refractive Surgeons, the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, and the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine. Read her full bio here.

References and Additional Resources

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 (O.D.), optometric professionals, and optometry students.

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