Cataract surgery is already the most successful surgery worldwide with a success rate of a mind-blowing 99 percent. That’s a great statistic since just about everyone gets cataracts — by the age of 65 over 90 percent of people have a cataract. This means the lens of their eye with the cataract is building proteins and is becoming more and more cloudy. Eventually, the cataract will build to the degree that the person will be looking through a dirty window, of sorts, with that eye. And cataracts eventually will usually develop in both eyes.
The question is when will the person opt to have cataract surgery to replace the clouded lens with a crystal-clear intraocular lens (IOL)? With the high success rates and with the way these procedures improve the patient’s vision, it’s hard to understand why anyone would put off cataract surgery, but some do.
At Cape Fear Cataract & Cornea, Dr. Groat performs cataract surgery every day, and he’s thrilled by the new intraocular lens choices available to our patients. In this first blog of fall, let’s get into these newer choices, as they really are awesome.
It used to be single vision or no vision
Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide, as in many places people can’t have surgery to remove and replace their cataract-clouded lens. But in North Carolina, that’s hardly the case. In fact, cataract surgery is covered fully by Medicare with one caveat: the patient can only select a monofocal lens for their replacement IOL.
This isn’t a case of Medicare being insensitive; it’s a case of technology changing quite quickly and Medicare not catching up yet. Up until the turn of the new century, monofocal IOLs were basically the only option for cataract surgery. The patient would select whether he or she wanted distance vision or close-up vision to be clear, and they would then use glasses to see clearly at the other vision option. Most people chose distance vision for their monofocal IOL, opting for eyeglasses for reading and up-close work. Since cataract surgery prevents future blindness in the affected eye, these procedures are deemed necessary, so Medicare has fully covered them, including the monofocal lens implant.
But in the past two decades, intraocular lenses have changed dramatically. Today, IOLs can give the patient clear vision at all distances through two different lens options, multifocal lenses and accommodating lenses. A few years ago, these lenses added the ability to also correct astigmatism with the debut of “toric” lenses. Now, patients can even correct for presbyopia, the near universal condition where after 40 a person loses the ability of their eye to focus clearly on up-close objects such as reading. That’s why older people have pairs of readers all over their living spaces.
These technologically advanced IOLs are referred to as “premium” IOLs. As such, they are not covered by Medicare. Medicare covers the surgery and the cost of a monofocal IOL, but the patient is responsible for the upgrade to the premium IOL. In our experience at Cape Fear Cataract & Cornea most patients feel the upgrade is well worth the cost when considering their upgraded vision and lack of need for eyeglasses.
If you have the cloudy vision that is the symptom of cataracts, there’s no reason to delay surgery to remove the cataract and replace it with an intraocular lens. Call us at Cape Fear Cataract & Cornea, (910) 769-4590, and schedule a consultation for cataract surgery and we can discuss your options.