Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgeries world wide. A cataract replacement lens is a lens that is surgically implanted during cataract surgery after the natural lens has been removed.
There are many types of cataract replacement lenses. The most common lenses currently are “mono-focal” lenses that correct for distance vision. These lenses are usually covered by insurance and Medicare. Mono-focal means that patients, even patients who do not wear glasses before their cataract operation, will likely need glasses after their cataract surgery. A mono-focal lens has one optimal viewing distance (usually distance for distance)
In an effort to reduce the need for glasses after cataract surgery, some patients are opting to have a “multi-focal” cataract replacement lens. A multi-focal replacement lens may offer the potential of reducing the need for glasses after surgery by allowing for different distances to be viewed through different zones in the lens. Conceptually like bifocal glasses, multi-focal lenses attempt to produce clear distance and near vision. Multi-focal lenses are typically not covered by insurance or Medicare, and therefore require the patient to pay for the lens on their own. These lenses can cost over $3000, per eye. (prices vary by surgeon). Multi-focal lenses aim to reduce dependence on glasses, they do not promise to eliminate the need for glasses. This should be kept in mind when discussing these new lenses with your surgeon. Expense does not guarantee outcome.
The newest types of cataract replacement lenses are “accommodating lenses.” These lenses are able to flex and bend, attempting to mimic the eye’s natural lens. Rather than having multiple “zones”, these lenses use the muscles in the eye to bend and offer vision at all ranges. There will be a number of accommodating lenses in the near future and they are expected to outpace multi-focal lenses in the years to come. Some say that they have a long way to go before surgeons can guarantee that glasses will still not be needed. Like mulit-focal lenses, accommodating lenses are not covered by insurance/Medicare and can cost over $3000 an eye. While these lenses may offer hope for eliminating the need for glasses, most surgeons do not promise that their patients will not need glasses, even after this, often expensive, surgery. Cataract replacement lenses are expected to keep evolving, but accommodating lenses seem to be the way the industry is moving.