Intraocular Lenses for Cataracts
Cataracts make the lens of the eye cloudy so light does not pass through as it should. In turn, this makes vision blurry. An intraocular lens replaces the cloudy lens during cataract surgery. This makes it so vision is clearer and the clouding is gone.
With an IOL, vision is typically monofocal or fixed focus. This means the patient can only see clearly at a single distance. Contact lenses and eyeglasses can correct the problem. There are also multifocal lenses with rings of vision power so patients can look through the different rings to see at different distances. Finally, there is the accommodative IOL, which has a hinge that relies on the eyes muscles to determine how far forward or back the lens needs to be for vision to be clear. This IOL makes it so individuals who have had cataract surgery can see at different distances without contact lenses or glasses.
Cataract surgery is rather quick, taking only 20 minutes. It is performed as an outpatient surgery. Before the surgery, measurements of the eye are taken and anesthesia is administered. While the area is numb, the surgeon makes very small cuts in the eye and sucks out the cloudy lens. The IOL is implanted through the same surgical cut. Most incisions heal without any surgical closure.
There are some risks to having IOL implants, such as loss of vision, implant dislocation, halo, glare, retinal detachment, dry eye, IOL clouding and floaters. Therefore, it is important to understand the different types of intraocular lenses and what is best for the specific scenario.
Like the natural lens, an IOL is a disc, but it is made with clear plastic or silicone. The natural lens is designed to help the eye focus. The IOL takes over that job after cataract surgery. Individuals with slight refractive problems from early cataracts may not require IOLs initially. However, when they prevent light from focusing in the eye, vision can be severely impacted. IOL implantation is currently the only way to treat these advanced cataracts.
Surgeons may choose to insert IOLs behind or in front of the iris with the former being more common. Soft plastic IOLs are ideal for this because they fit through smaller incisions. This means patients will recover from the surgery faster. Either way, IOL implants remain the only effective treatment for cataract vision loss.