I’ve read that there’s a new type of cataract surgery that can also correct vision so you don’t have to wear reading glasses anymore. What can you tell me about this? I will need cataract surgery in the near future and would like to learn more.
For the millions of bifocal wearing baby boomers and seniors who will eventually need cataract surgery there’s great news! New types of implantable lenses are now available that allow cataract patients to see near, far, and in between without wearing glasses or contact lenses. Here’s what you should know.
Cataract surgery is one of the safest and most successful surgical procedures that has recently gotten better. In a typical cataract surgery, a patient’s aging and cloudy natural lens is removed and replaced with an intraocular lens (IOL) to restore the eye’s focusing power. Until recently, the only option was a fixed-focus lens, typically designed for faraway distances, which left the patient needing bifocals or reading glasses to see up close. But now, there are new multifocal and accommodating lenses that can restore sight at all distances so patients can go glasses-free.
The new lenses – all FDA approved – have been available in the U.S. for around three years and so far doctors and patients are pleased with how well they work. While these new lenses don’t guarantee 20/20 vision, they can reduce the need for glasses for most people by as much as 90 percent. Some of the different brands currently on the market include the ReStor (www.acrysofrestor.com) and ReZoom (www.rezoomiol.com), and the Crystalens (www.crystalens.com) accommodating lens.
It’s estimated that around 20 percent of cataract patients nationally are now choosing these new multifocal lenses. However, some doctors have been hesitant to adopt the new technology, owing to scattered reports of halos, glare, and problems with night vision and blurring. Because these lenses have been available for only a short time, most of these doctors are waiting for more data on patient’s long-term experience. Also keep in mind that as with any surgery, lens implantation comes with some risk of complication. Infection, retinal detachment, and an increase in eye pressure, while rare, do occur but can almost always be successfully treated.
Finding a Doctor
Since the multifocal lenses are relatively new, not all cataract surgeons are trained to implant them. So if you would like to find out whether you’re a candidate for one of these lenses, you may need to call several surgeons in your area to find out who uses them. You can also search for trained physicians through the ReStor, ReZoom and Crystalens Web sites previously listed. After you locate a few, ask lots of questions and choose one who has significant experience with these lenses and is prepared to deal with any problems that could arise.
You also need to know about the additional cost. While Medicare, Medicaid and most health insurance plans cover cataract surgery and the traditional lens implants, they don’t yet pay for new multifocal and accommodating implants. That means if you opt for the newer lenses you’ll have to pay the difference of what Medicare or insurance doesn’t cover, which will be around $2,000 to $2,500 per eye.
Savvy Tips: To learn more about these new cataract lens implants visit www.allaboutvision.com – click on “Cataracts.” And for more information about cataract in general, the National Eye Institute offers a free publication called “Cataract: What you should know.” To get a copy, call 301-496-5248 or visit www.nei.nih.gov.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.