June is Cataract Awareness Month. There are over 25 million people in the United States who have a cataract. Projections have this number nearly doubling by the year 2050.
A cataract is a clouding of the natural lens of the eye. As the lens clouds, one’s vision becomes affected. A person may notice the following symptoms:
• Blurry vision
• Difficulty with night driving
• Sensitivity to light and glare
• “Halos” around streetlights and headlights
• Need for increased lighting when reading
• Frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescription
• Dulling or yellowing of colors
Most cataracts develop slowly, without disturbing one’s eyesight early on. As it progresses, it eventually leads to more noticeable symptoms.
Most cataracts are a result of normal aging of the lens tissue. Other causes include injury, past eye surgery, medical conditions and some medications. Both UV light exposure and smoking can lead to cataracts progressing more quickly.
Yearly eye exams are the best way to monitor cataract progression. It is time to consider surgical treatment of your cataracts when they begin to affect your daily life. There is no need to suffer with decreased vision caused by cataracts.
Cataract surgery is relatively quick surgery, typically taking only a few minutes. The procedure is performed under topical anesthesia and requires no stitches. During the surgery, your surgeon will replace the cloudy natural lens with an artificial lens implant, commonly referred to as an Intraocular Lens (IOL).
Today, there are a number of options when considering the type of lens implant used in cataract surgery that were not available a few years ago. The lens that is best for each individual depends on many factors. During your eye examination, your doctor will recommend the best lens for you based on the results of the examination and matching that with your lifestyle and unique visual needs.
Below is a quick discussion of the various lens technologies.
Monofocal lenses are designed to closely match the power of the natural lens. These lenses provide sharp vision in low light settings such as night driving. As their name implies, they correct only one range of vision, typically distance vision. With this type of lens, you will need reading glasses for working on the computer, reading and other near tasks. This is a good choice for patients that don’t mind wearing glasses.
You will often see Monofocal lenses referred to as “Standard” lens implants. The remaining lens options are often referred to as “Premium” lens implants.
Extended Depth of Focus (EDOF) IOLs
Extended Depth of Focus IOLs provide a continuous range of vision for patients. This improves the quality of a patient’s vision at distance, mid-range and near vision, decreasing the need for glasses.
Multifocal IOLs contain additional magnification in different parts of the lens to provide a broader range of vision. This improves the quality of a patient’s distance and near vision, decreasing the need for glasses.
Accommodating IOLs are designed with a monofocal that has flexible haptics, what holds the lens in place in the eye. The flexibility of the haptics allow these lenses to shift forward slightly when you look at a near object. This improves the focusing power of the eye not only for distance vision, but also providing some near vision, again decreasing a patient’s need for glasses.
Astigmatism Correcting (Toric) IOLs
Toric lenses allow the correction of astigmatism at the time of cataract surgery. Astigmatism affects over half of the general population. In the past, patients with astigmatism have needed glasses to see adequately at all distances after cataract surgery. Now, Toric IOLs are available in Monofocal, Extended Depth of Focus, Multifocal and Accommodating designs, greatly reducing the need for glasses following cataract surgery.
As you can see, this is an exciting time for patients who are considering cataract surgery. There are numerous options that did not exist several years ago that allow the doctor to match a lens option with the goals a patient has for his or her vision following cataract surgery.