Lens Implants: New Fix for Your Nearsightedness, Astigmatism?

They're not just for cataracts anymore

Are you ready to leave your eyeglasses behind? If you’re thinking of having surgery to improve your vision, it may surprise you to know that lens implants may be an option. A procedure widely used to correct cataracts may also work well for you.

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Ophthalmologists increasingly use lens implants to correct refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism).

The new lens replaces your eye’s natural lens in a refractive lens exchange. These implants have long been used to replace lenses clouded by cataracts, most often in older patients.

Of course, many people get good results from LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis) and PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) procedures. These are common laser vision correction methods that reshape your cornea to help you see better. These procedures work well for those with mild to moderate vision problems. But lens implants can do more.

How does an intraocular lens work?

Intraocular lenses are small and flexible. They’re usually made of acrylic or silicone.

During the procedure, your ophthalmologist removes your natural lenses. He or she replaces them with the lens implants. Tiny side struts hold them in place in your eye.

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The implants correct the way that light rays focus and bend as they enter your eye, says ophthalmologist Ronald Krueger, MD.

What types of lenses are available?

Intraocular lenses come in several types and prescriptions. There are four common types:

  • Monofocal lenses give a single, sharp focus at a distance or near, but can be placed for monovision correction — where one eye sees distance and the other eye sees near — to give a very functional range of vision. Monovision correction is very popular for older individuals getting LASIK.
  • Multifocal lenses offer two focal points in each eye, one at far distance and the other at a near distance. Most people are free of glasses, however they may see less clear at mid-range distances, and may see rings around lights at night, Dr. Krueger says.
  • Extended depth-of-focus lenses can help you see more clearly at a distance and mid-range and at all points in between. They are less likely to have glare and rings around lights at night, but the full range of correction for near viewing is sometimes compromised, and not as close up as with a multifocal lens or monovision lenses, he says.
  • Toric lenses correct astigmatism (caused by an uneven curvature in your eye’s cornea), so that you can see clearly at distance or near without glasses.

Also, intraocular lenses last a lifetime, according to experts at the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Are you a good candidate for lens implants?

Dr. Krueger says these implants are likely a good fit for you if:

  1. Your nearsightedness or farsightedness is severe.
  2. You have minor to moderate nearsightedness or farsightedness and you have cataracts.

“If you have cataracts or even the start of them, lens replacement is your best option. It can correct both issues at once,” Dr. Krueger says.

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  1. You are considering vision correction and are middle-aged or older.

“If you are in your 60s or 70s and you are thinking about having vision correction surgery, you should explore whether a lens solution is a better way to go than LASIK,” he says.

That’s because LASIK won’t keep you from getting cataracts (which becomes more likely as you age). And, it might make removing cataracts down the road more challenging, he says.

Intraocular lenses can correct a range of vision problems. And you’ll never have to worry about cataracts, Dr. Krueger says.

“Through advancements in lens technology, we can achieve a final outcome through refractive lens exchange that is on par with what we can achieve with LASIK,” he says.

So maybe you’d like to ditch your glasses and you’re ready to consider a surgical solution. If so, it’s a good idea to see your eye doctor to explore all of your options, including lens implants.

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