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Laser Accuracy Now Available for
Patients Undergoing Cataract Surgery

It’s a fact of life that over time our vision may not be what it once was—crisp images and vibrant colors gradually fade. This change in our vision affects most of life’s activities—reading, driving, being active, enjoying nature, and so much more. Cataracts can affect all of us as we age.

What Are Cataracts?

Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s natural lens. They are the leading cause of blindness in the United States. It is estimated that more than 22 million Americans over the age of 40 have cataracts, and that more than half of the population will experience this condition by the time they are 80 years old. In a healthy eye, light passes through the lens and is focused on the retina. The retina transfers the image into nerve signals that are sent to the brain. As cataracts form, the lens of the eye becomes cloudy and the images sent to the brain are not as sharp and vivid as they once were.

What Is Available to Treat Cataracts?

Treatment of cataracts involves surgery to remove the cloudy natural lens, replacing it with an artificial intraocular lens, referred to as an IOL. With more than 3 million cataract surgeries performed each year in the United States, it is the most commonly performed elective medical procedure under the Medicare system. Standard cataract surgery is covered by most insurance plans, as well as Medicare. These IOLs, or implants, are effective in restoring vision and a cataract will not develop again.

Although standard IOLs produce clear vision, patients will likely need glasses or contacts due to remaining astigmatism or presbyopia. Astigmatism causes blurriness or visual distortion due to an irregularity in the dome-shaped curvature of the front surface of the eye, the cornea. Presbyopia is the hardening of the natural lens, which causes a loss of focus on objects up close. The ability for the lens to change shape in order to focus for near vision is typically lost as people age, so reading glasses become necessary. Presbyopia usually begins around the age of 45 and it affects everyone sooner or later.

Custom Cataract Surgery involves the use of special advanced technology—IOLs and surgical techniques. These special IOLs and techniques are very successful in helping people reduce or eliminate their dependency on glasses by decreasing nearsightedness or farsightedness, astigmatism, and presbyopia. Multifocal and accommodating IOLs improve vision at all distances. Toric IOLs improve distance vision and correct astigmatism.

Laser Accuracy for Customized Cataract Surgery

The latest technological advance is laser-assisted cataract surgery. Until now, standard cataract procedures and custom cataract surgeries were performed manually by the surgeon, making several small incisions with a blade. A manual procedure allows for a margin of error that can increase risks and affect outcomes. With the introduction of the first FDA-approved laser for cataracts, called LenSx®, this image-guided laser allows the surgeon to perform incisions with efficiency and precision without the use of a blade.

The laser also assists in breaking up the lens so that removal of the cataract requires less ultrasound energy. Additionally, the laser allows for better management of astigmatism, increasing the likelihood of not needing glasses for distance after surgery. Recent results show that laser cataract surgery is up to 10 times more precise than manual techniques for some portions of the cataract surgery procedure.

Patients who undergo cataract surgery with implantation of a standard IOL will likely have presbyopia the rest of their lives, requiring glasses for reading and any close work. Those who choose to have Laser Cataract Surgery along with implantation of a special “lifestyle” lens, will likely not need glasses for most anything they do—near, far, or in between. As expected, this new technology comes with additional costs. Cataract patients who elect to have customized surgery may still use insurance for the standard portion of the procedure, but will pay the cost of the custom upgrade out-of-pocket.

Undergoing cataract surgery is an important decision involving one’s vision. Patients should be sure to discuss the available options and any questions they have with the doctor who will perform their procedure. This is the best way to get clear, candid answers that apply specifically to the individual. Lifestyle and visual needs are important considerations and should be included when making decisions about cataract surgery.

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