Cataracts cause your eye’s natural lens to become cloudy, impairing your vision. They are primarily age-related, but people with diabetes or a prior family history of cataracts are at risk too.
Cataracts can also be caused by an injury to the eye or taking certain medications, such as steroids. They affect men and women equally. Age-related cataracts usually form in both eyes, though this can occur both simultaneously and at different times.
Cataract surgery is a popular treatment, and it only takes between 15 and 45 minutes. It is performed under a local anesthetic. Before surgery, your ophthalmologist will ask you which type of cataract lenses you want. These artificial lenses are called intraocular lenses or IOLs. There are many types of IOLs available, but two of the most common are monofocal and multifocal lenses.
The standard lens used to replace a cataract is called a monofocal lens. With this, a patient’s vision can only focus at one point after the surgery, like with single-vision glasses. This type is good for either near- or far-distance vision correction but not for both.
For example, if you opt for a monofocal lens for distance vision, you may still need to wear glasses to see things up close. You can also elect for monovision, which means you’ll have different monofocal lenses in each eye — one for distance vision and one for near vision. Monovision can take some getting used to, but it can be a more affordable alternative to multifocal cataract lenses.
Presbyopia affects most people from the age of 40. The condition causes a thickening of the eye’s natural lens, preventing it from expanding and contracting as much as it once could. This impacts your eyes’ natural ability to focus on both near and far objects at will.
Presbyopia is generally treated with multifocal glasses like bifocals or varifocals, or with multifocal contact lenses. However, cataract surgery patients also have access to multifocal cataract lenses to correct this condition.
Multifocal lenses allow you to focus at multiple distances. Some patients find they still need reading glasses to see very fine print, but often, multifocal cataract lenses can eliminate the need for wearing glasses or contact lenses.
A multifocal lens is sometimes used in conjunction with a monofocal lens in the other eye, creating what is known as “enhanced monovision.”
Cataract surgery can immeasurably improve a person’s vision, and thanks to these vision-correcting intraocular lenses, eyesight can often be improved beyond what it was before cataracts even began to develop. Visit an experienced ophthalmologist to discuss cataract contact lenses. They can help you decide which option works best for you.