Most people associate cataracts with aging, but younger people can develop cataracts as well. Some patients develop cataracts in their 40s and 50s, and these individuals are seeking treatment at an earlier age. As the cataract develops, it progressively impairs vision. Common symptoms of cataracts are clouded or blurred vision, difficulty seeing at night, sensitivity to glare, fading of colors, seeing “halos” around lights, and double vision in one eye.
While many other eye conditions cause irreversible vision loss, cataracts are treatable with surgery. Cataract surgery is one of the most common procedures performed in the United States, and it is extremely safe and effective. The surgery involves removing your cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial lens called an IOL, or intraocular lens. An IOL is a clear, plastic lens that requires no care and becomes a permanent part of your eye. Based on your test results, your surgeon will recommend the best IOL for you.
If you are young, one of the best benefits of cataract surgery is that it can reduce your dependence on glasses. If you wear bifocals, cataract surgery may allow you to only need glasses for reading. There are several procedures that your eye surgeon can perform during cataract surgery to reduce your need for eyeglasses:
- Premium Intraocular Lens (IOL). You have several choices of IOLs to replace your clouded lens. Most insurance companies will cover a monofocal IOL, which corrects either distance vision or near vision. A premium lens can correct both distance and near vision, or astigmatism, but it is not covered by most insurance companies. Speak to your insurance provider about your benefits so you can make the best decision for you. If you are in your 40s or 50s, it may be in your best interest to choose a premium IOL, even if it means that you have to pay. The convenience and freedom that a premium IOL will offer you may offset the price.
- Laser Vision Correction (LVC). Your eye is like a camera and uses a lens to bend the light to focus an image on your retina. LVC reshapes the cornea with a laser to change the way that your cornea bends the light. LVC can correct astigmatism. However, not every patient is eligible for LVC, so talk to your eye surgeon to verify whether you are a candidate for LVC.
- Limbal Relaxing Incisions (LRI). This procedure is sometimes performed along with cataract surgery to correct astigmatism. Although not as precise as LVC, limbal relaxing incisions are a less expensive option than LVC. Your surgeon will create one or two partial thickness incisions in the outer cornea to cause the tissues of the cornea to relax and change shape. LRI is effective for low-level astigmatism to improve uncorrected vision, but it does not correct nearsightedness or farsightedness. Most insurance companies do not cover LRI.