By Dr. Helen K. Wu
Most Individuals over the age of 40 experience difficulty seeing up close without the aid of bifocals, trifocals or reading glasses. This condition — called presbyopia — is age-related and believed to be caused by a hardening of the lens inside the eye, making it difficult for the eye’s muscles to change its focus. Over time, the lens becomes cloudy and develops into a cataract. It is said that, if we live long enough, we will all develop cataracts.
The only way to treat cataracts is to remove and replace them with an Intraocular Lens (IOL). Until recently, the primary option was to receive a “fixed focus” IOL. Patients who received this type of IOL typically had both eyes corrected for distance vision but usually still required glasses for intermediate and near vision. If you are experiencing presbyopia or cataracts, you may be a candidate for one of the new technologically advanced IOLs that can provide a full range of vision. This means that you can read and see clearly in the distance and everything in-between, with little or no dependence on bifocals, trifocals or contact lenses. It’s almost like having a bifocal or progressive lens inside your eye. Depending on the technological features of these IOLs, they may be described as “Accommodating IOLs,” “Apodized-diffractive IOLs” or “Multifocal IOLs.”
Each of these lenses has some advantages and disadvantages. Which one is best for you depends on the unique characteristics of your eye as well as your lifestyle needs. You and your doctor will decide together which lens is more advantageous for you. The vast majority of patients who chose a Multifocal lens report they can read a book, work on a computer, drive a car — day and night — and play golf or tennis with an increased freedom from glasses. Multifocal lens surgery can address cataracts, presbyopia and astigmatism. Also, advances in Intraocular Lens (IOL) technology now provide a reliable and effective option for patients with astigmatism. Until the recent introduction of Toric IOLs, people who are considered candidates for intraocular lenses, could only have their nearsightedness and far-sightedness corrected during lens implant surgery.
Patients with astigmatism would either require corneal refractive surgery (LASIK, PRK or LRI) after lens implant surgery or they would remain dependant on glasses or contacts due to uncorrected astigmatism. Astigmatism is caused by the cornea being more curved in one direction than the other, much like a football. Toric IOLs are specially shaped IOLs designed to offset the imbalance created by the irregular shape of the cornea. Once implanted and aligned inside the eye, they stay fixed in place, thereby eliminating pre-existing astigmatism.
Helen K. Wu, MD is a specialist with New England Eye Center, associated with Tufts New England Medical Center, Boston. Call New England Eye Center for vision correction evaluations Monday through Friday and some Saturdays. Call 617-636-7800 to set up a consultation or visit online at www.BostonCataract.com or www.MyLasikDoc.com.