What are intraocular lenses and why do I need them for cataract surgery?
What is an intraocular lens?
An intraocular lens is a very small artificial lens that replaces the eyes natural crystalline lens when correcting patient’s cataracts. Remarkably, they were invented just after the second world war and since then they have evolved quite dramatically. These days intraocular lenses are usually made from a soft synthetic and highly biocompatible material. These micro lenses then offer patients a clear view of the world again and can correct multiple types of vision.
An intraocular lens (IOL lens for short) were specifically designed for patients who are experiencing cataracts and need to replace a natural lens that has become cloudy. The procedure is performed with just local anaesthesia and usually takes around 15 minutes to perform. An advantage to this procedure is that patients are also able to go home the same day. Although you won’t personally be able to drive yourself home the day of your surgery, however, after the procedure it won’t be long until you are legally allowed to drive again. The recovery time is minimal, with very little discomfort.
What types of intraocular lenses are available?
There are many types of intraocular lenses available. Most patients don’t realise that when having cataract surgery, there is the chance to not just rejuvenate their vision but also correct pre-existing vision disorders such as short-sight, long-sight, astigmatism and their dependence on reading glasses. The most common lenses are monofocal and provide clear vision at one distance so individuals will continue to need glasses.
Another option to consider are enhanced or premium (multifocal) lenses. There is an extensive range of lenses that offer more than one point of vision and are designed to reduce the need for glasses to see at near, intermediate and distance vision.
All lens options are also available to correct astigmatism, if needed.
When it comes to selecting the correct intraocular lens for our patients, there are numerous clinical considerations to consider, so a rigorous examination is necessary that includes the latest scanning diagnostics. All patients of Vision Care Clinic will have a thorough examination with one of our Ophthalmologists. During the consultation process, we investigate an individual’s lifestyle so we can ascertain their vision needs, priorities and even aspirations. This includes considering their occupation, hobbies, driving and so on. We will also have a very detailed discussion around the vision requirements needed to live without glasses after surgery. We pride ourselves on our high level of personalised patient care.
What are the symptoms of cataracts?
It can be difficult when you are busy with everyday life to notice changes with your eyesight, and even more so if you don’t know what the signs are. As a helping hand we have put together what we suggest you look out for, if you think you may need cataract surgery:
- cloudy vision
- changes in colour vision
- increased glare while driving
- difficulty with reading, even with glasses
- glasses prescription changing with increased frequency
- double vision or ghosting of images (especially if only noticeable in one eye)
- progressive need for brighter light for reading
- recent struggle with vision at night and increased sensitivity to light.
As cataracts get worse, vision becomes cloudier, and you might notice worsening of the above symptoms. If you think you may be developing cataracts, you need a professional eye exam by your eye doctor, optician, or ophthalmologist. If your vision problems can be corrected to an acceptable level with glasses or contact lenses, surgery may be avoided at this time. If your vision loss cannot be corrected by the above measures and if this interferes with your daily activities such as driving, reading or watching television, then you may benefit from cataract surgery.
What causes cataracts?
The main cause of cataracts is a natural build-up of protein in the lens due to age. However, they can be present from birth or occur following eye injuries or eye surgery for other problems.
Why is the lens replaced in cataract surgery?
The natural accumulation of protein in the lens causes it to become cloudy and opacified. Currently, the only proven method of improving vision due to cataracts is surgery, where the cloudy and opacified natural lens is replaced with a clear artificial lens known as an intraocular lens.
What can you expect from cataract surgery?
At Vision Care Clinic, only consultant eye surgeons perform cataract surgery. A tiny opening is used to access the cataract and it is very gently broken up using ultrasound energy before being removed from the eye. The new intraocular lens is then implanted through the same opening. Sutures are only rarely required. The operation is usually performed under local anaesthetic using anaesthetic drops only. This means that only light pressure on the eye is felt during the surgery. A surgical drape partially covers the face and a bright light is focused on the cataract to help the surgeon operate. This means that patients only see this light. The entire operation lasts less than 15 minutes.
How long does it take to recover from cataract surgery?
Patients usually notice some improvement directly after cataract surgery. There will be some blurring of the vision and a mild gritty sensation for the first 24-48 hours, but this is just temporary. It may take a few days for eyes to adjust. Patients who have opted for multifocal lenses will have a period of neuro-adaption as their eyes will need to get used to their new multifocal vision.
Our patients are delighted by the bright, clear vision post-surgery. They often comment that they can’t believe how vivid colours appear again and that they hadn’t realised how much detail in their vision they had been missing.
by David Silvester
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