Arizona Eye Center Procedures – Cataracts
A cataract is a progressive clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision and can occur in one or both eyes. The normally transparent lens in the eye focuses light and images onto the retina, which helps our brain to recognize what we are looking at. When the lens becomes cloudy from cataracts, the images that are projected onto the retina become blurred, eventually to the point that it affects vision. Blurry or clouded vision caused by cataracts can make it difficult to read, drive a car (especially at night) or even see the expression on someone’s face.
Most cataracts develop slowly, progressing over a number of years, and generally do not require treatment early on. As the cataract grows larger, however, it begins to cloud more of the lens, further distorting the light that passes through it. With time, cataracts will eventually lead to signs and symptoms that interfere with vision such as cloudy or blurry vision, worsening of night vision, needing more light to read, problems with glare and halos around lights, a fading of colors, or double vision in one eye.
The best known risk factor to developing cataracts is age. However, certain medical conditions such as diabetes, smoking, and too much exposure to UV rays, increase the risk of developing cataracts. Prior eye surgery and eye trauma can also increase the risk of developing cataracts.
Preventative strategies include behaviors that reduce the risk factors, including reducing UV exposure, discontinuing smoking, and increasing foods high in antioxidants (green leafy vegetables, fruits, etc.). While there are temporary treatments ranging from eyeglass prescription changes to using brighter lighting and a magnifying glass that can be employed in the early stages of the disease, the only effective treatment for cataracts is, ultimately, surgery.
Cataract surgery involves removing the eye’s natural lens, which has become cloudy, through a small incision in the cornea, and replacing it with an artificial, clear lens that becomes a permanent part the eye. Light is focused clearly onto the retina by the newly implanted lens, improving vision. Patients cannot feel or see the new lens and it requires no special care.
There are a number of different lens options for the surgical correction of cataracts.
Monofocal lenses are almost always covered by insurance (including Medicare) and are considered to be the current standard of treatment for lens replacement in cataract surgery. With a monofocal lens, vision is typically corrected and focused in at one given distance – near, intermediate or far. Monofocal lenses significantly reduce nighttime glare and drastically improve vision, however, glasses generally must still be used to enhance visual acuity for the distance ranges not enhanced by the artificial monofocal lens. This is a sound and reliable option and patient satisfaction with these lenses is high.
Multifocal and accommodative lenses are designed to let you see more clearly at multiple distances and provide for simultaneous viewing of both distance vision and near vision. Multifocal lenses rely on varying degrees of correction within the lens itself, while accommodative lenses rely on small muscles in the eye to move the lens forward and backward to change the focus. The majority of patients receiving multifocal lens implants report that they do not have to use glasses to improve near and far vision after the surgery. However, nighttime glare can still be a problem with multifocal lenses and insurance will generally not cover the cost between a monofocal and multifocal lens implant.
Finally, there are lens options that can address correction of astigmatism at the same time as correcting the cataracts, these are called toric lenses. They are specifically designed to “match” the plane of the astigmatism and not only provide relief from cloudy vision from cataracts, but also from the astigmatism. Toric lenses are currently only offered in monofocal options in the USA.
If a lens implant becomes cloudy after cataract surgery, which is a rare occurrence, a simple laser procedure can restore the clarity and function of the lens.
At Arizona Eye Center, we perform successful cataract surgeries all the time. We offer a range of lens implant options for the surgical treatment of cataracts to help our patients regain their best vision and will work with you and your insurance company to help offer affordable solutions to your vision restoration needs.