IOL stands for intraocular lens. These clear lenses are implanted inside the eye to replace the eye’s natural lens when it becomes cloudy due to cataracts. IOLs were introduced in the 1940’s as the first device ever implanted in the human body, and today they are a standard component of cataracts surgery.
IOL Surgery Candidates
An IOL is most often implanted during cataracts surgery. When the cloudy cataract lens comes out, the crystal clear IOL goes in to replace it.
IOLs are not only for cataract patients, however. For patients over 45 who are not ideal candidates for LASIK surgery, IOL implants may be a fantastic alternative for vision correction. This is typically called Refractive Lensectomy, which is the removal of the natural lens which is then replaced with an IOL that provides vision correction. Patients may opt to get IOLs rather than LASIK to permanently improve vision with the added benefit of never having to do future cataract surgery since the natural lens which typically becomes cloudy with age has already been removed.
About IOL Surgery
Whether implants are being used for cataracts or long-term vision correction, the process is similar. Drs. Cullom & Farah will make a small incision to remove your defective lens and replace it with the IOL implant. Surgery is typically performed one eye at the time, with an average of two weeks between each eye. Most people enjoy comfortable, clear vision the next day.
IOL implants are made of high tech, biocompatible materials that are capable of lasting hundreds of years. They do not breakdown inside the eye and almost never require replacement. Barring an unusual situation like an accident that causes trauma to the eye, your IOL will never need to be adjusted or replaced for the rest of your life.
Side Effects of IOLs
Many patients worry that an IOL will feel like a contact that they can’t get out. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Since the IOL sits inside the eye (where your old lens used to be), it cannot be felt. Once healed, an IOL implant becomes a normal part of your eye.
Deciding Which Type of IOL is Right For You
There are many types of IOL implants that are designed to suit different patients with different needs and preferences.
The most common type of IOL is a monofocal lens. These lenses are designed to focus either near or far, meaning that you are choosing between being nearsighted or farsighted when you choose a monofocal lens. Patients who receive these lenses usually still wear glasses that compensate for the single focus of their IOL. These lenses are typically covered by insurance.
Multifocal lens implants (MFIOL) are available that allow for both distance vision and reading. While many people like the idea of a multifocal lens, they are typically only suited to patients with eyes that are otherwise very healthy and will not be appropriate for people with macular degeneration or glaucoma. Insurance usually does not cover multifocal lenses. Rare side effect of these types of lenses include issues with halos around lights at night. Fortunately only a very small percentage of patients are bothered by these types of side effects and find the added benefit of better reading worth the trade-off.
Extended Depth of Focus Lenses
Over the past few years as technology has become a critical component of many people’s lives, IOLs have been designed that offer middle ground between distance and reading focal lengths. This intermediate focus is better suited for patients who want good distance but also want to be able to see at their computer screen, tablet, or phone. Extended depth of focus lenses (EDOF IOL) offer a more continuous range of focus from middle to far ranges. Many people still opt to use reading glasses for small print with this type IOL. Like their multifocal predecessors, EDOF lenses are often not covered by insurance. Like MFIOLs, rare side effects of these types of lenses include issues with halos or starbursts around lights at night. These issues tend to be less in EDOF lenses compared to MFIOL lenses and fortunately only a very small percentage of patients are bothered by these side effects and find the added benefit of better intermediate vision worth the trade-off.
Patients with higher amounts of astigmatism will often need additional vision correction, such as a pair of glasses, when a single focus lens is implanted. Toric lenses are specialty IOLs designed to correct astigmatism and offer clear vision without extra help. While insurance often does not cover these IOLs, for patients with astigmatism, a Toric lens can save on the costs of additional vision correction and prescription glasses. Multifocal and EDOF Toric lenses have recently hit the market, offering a wider range of IOL options for people with astigmatism who also want distance and near corrected.
Schedule Your IOL Consultation
Only your doctor can recommend which implant will work the best in your eyes. Everyone’s eyes are different and depending on the health of your eye, the amount of astigmatism, and your lifestyle, some IOLs will be better matches for you than others. At our office, we will do extensive measurements of your eye at your consultation to determine the best IOL options for you.