The intraocular lens (IOL) was developed in the 1940s but not routinely implanted until the 1970s to safely restore vision to patients during cataract surgery. Over the years, researchers have developed new materials, designs and methods of implantation to make cataract surgery one of the most successful surgeries performed today.
New IOLs are created each year to treat cataract-associated vision problems. If you have cataracts, you may feel overwhelmed by the number of choices available to you. Rest assured that your eye surgeon will help you evaluate your choices and help you decide which IOL is best for your age, eye health, activity level and vision needs. Medicare and private insurance will vary in coverage for each type of IOL, so it is wise to contact your insurance provider to inquire about your benefits, but most insurance companies cover the basic monofocal lens only.
- Monofocal lens—Monofocal lenses improve vision at one distance: far, intermediate or near. It is most common for individuals to want improved distance vision, which means that they still will need to wear glasses for reading. This is the least expensive IOL, and it is usually covered by Medicare and private insurance companies. If you have astigmatism and choose to have a monofocal IOL, you will likely need to wear glasses at all times.
- Astigmatism-correcting monofocal lens—Depending on the shape of your cornea, you may be a candidate for an astigmatism-correcting monofocal lens. This toric lens corrects astigmatism and cataracts in a single procedure. After surgery, you may still need glasses or contact lenses for reading. Toric lenses are considered a premium lens, which means you will be responsible for additional costs because this lens is considered a luxury and not a necessity.
- Multifocal lens—Around the age of 40, most adults notice a change in their ability to focus on nearby objects. If you wear glasses or contacts for distance vision and your near vision is diminishing, you may want to consider a mulitifocal lens. In some cases, this IOL can eliminate your need for eyeglasses because it helps improve near, distance and intermediate vision. A multifocal lens is considered a premium lens, so you will be responsible for additional costs.
IOL technology allows your surgeon to customize your lens to suit your specific needs. Before you make a decision, take the time to ask questions so you can make the best choice for your vision.