What are Intraocular Lenses? by Jeffrey Tran, M.D.

August 14, 2020

Dr. Jeffrey Tran is a comprehensive ophthalmologist and cataract surgeon at the Marietta Eye Clinic.

By age 60, most people start to show symptoms of cataracts, though they may not notice these symptoms for years. Initially, most cataracts are monitored and surgery is not necessary. If cataracts become significant enough that they limit a patient’s day to day life, an ophthalmologist might recommend cataract surgery. During cataract surgery a surgeon removes the affected lens and implants an intraocular lens (IOL).

What is an Intraocular Lens?

An intraocular lens is an artificial lens used to replace a clouded lens that has been removed during cataract surgery. Like prescription glasses or contacts, intraocular lenses come in a variety of focus powers. Before the procedure, your eye will be measured. The length and curve of your eye will be used to set the focusing power of your replacement lens.

Intraocular lenses can be made of a variety of plastic materials, most commonly silicone and acrylic. Intraocular lenses often protect your eyes from ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Types of Intraocular Lenses

There are a few basic types of intraocular lenses you can have implanted to replace a cloudy natural lens. The type of lens you implant will determine what kind of vision you have after the procedure. If both of your eyes require surgery, you may choose to get the same kind of lens implanted in each eye or two separate lenses that will give you a wider range of vision.

The most common types of intraocular lenses include:

  • Monofocal: This is the most common type of lens implanted during a cataract surgery. It has only one focal distance, similar to monofocal eye glasses. Your ophthalmologist can set the IOL to focus for far-sighted vision, medium range or near-sighted vision. You can also wear eye glasses to complement your IOL-assisted vision if you choose.
  • Toric: Toric IOLs are lenses that correct for astigmatism. You can also opt to have limbal relaxing incisions (LRI) made either during cataract surgery or after to further correct astigmatism. In this procedure, incisions are made at opposite edges of the cornea, flattening the curve of the eye.
  • Multifocal: Multifocal IOLs will allow you to see in more than one focal zone with the same lens, similar to multifocal eyeglasses. If you have multifocal IOLs implanted, your brain will switch between the focal points. Multifocal IOLs generally allow for a range of both distance and near vision, leaving you less dependent on reading glasses.
  • 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 type of IOL you have implanted will determine whether you will need to wear glasses after surgery. If they do not already wear corrective lenses, most people will begin to experience loss of near-sighted vision in their 40s. This is known as presbyopia. If you experience presbyopia but retain far-sighted vision, a monofocal intraocular lens may satisfy your vision requirements. If you experience impairment in both near- and far-sighted vision, you may choose to have multifocal intraocular lenses implanted. Both will restore near- and far-sighted vision to some degree but may have limitations. You may still choose to use reading glasses, depending on the type of vision required for your daily activities.

There is an Intraocular Lens for You

Whatever your vision needs, there is an intraocular lens for you. Your lifestyle will determine which lens will provide you with your best outcome. 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 Surgeon Jeffrey Tran, M.D.

Dr. Tran is a comprehensive ophthalmologist and cataract surgeon at the Marietta Eye Clinic. Dr. Tran earned his medical degree from Emory University School of Medicine and completed a residency at Cullen Eye Institute at the Baylor College of Medicine. He is a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, the American College of Physicians, and the American Medical Association. Read more about Dr. Tran 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. 

IOL Implants: Lens Replacement After Cataracts

https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/cataracts-iol-implants

Bye, Cataracts. Hello, Intraocular Lenses: How to Decide What Type of IOL is Best for You

https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/intraocular-lenses-iols-how-to-decide-what-type

Cataract Data and Statistics

https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/resources-for-health-educators/eye-health-data-and-statistics/cataract-data-and-statistics

IOLs: These Aren’t Your Grandma’s Lenses … or Maybe They Are?

https://www.aao.org/young-ophthalmologists/yo-info/article/these-arent-your-grandmas-lenses-or-maybe-they-are

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