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Your eye works a lot like a camera. Light rays focus through your cornea and lens onto the retina, a layer of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye. Similar to photographic film, the retina allows the image to be “seen” by the brain.

Over time, the lens can become cloudy, preventing a sharp focus. The loss of transparency may be so mild that vision is barely affected, or it can be so severe that no shapes or movements can be detected, only light from dark. When the lens becomes cloudy enough to obstruct vision to any significant degree, it is called a cataract. Eyeglasses or contact lenses can often correct slight refractive errors caused by early cataracts, but they cannot sharpen your vision with more advanced cataracts.

The most common cause of cataract is aging. Other causes include trauma, medications such as steroids, systemic diseases such as diabetes, and prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light. Occasionally, babies are born with a cataract.

Girl picking flowers cataract image

Causes and Symptoms

Cataracts typically develop slowly and progressively, causing a gradual and painless decrease in vision. Other changes you might experience include blurry vision; glare, particularly at night; frequent changes in your eyeglass prescription; a decrease in color intensity; a yellowing of images; and double vision. As the eye’s natural lens gets denser, farsighted (presbyopic) people, who have difficulty focusing up close can experience improved near vision and become less dependent on reading glasses. However, nearsighted (myopic) people become more nearsighted, causing a worsening in their distance vision. Some kinds of cataracts affect distance vision more than reading vision. For others the opposite applies.

Reducing your exposure to ultraviolet light by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses may reduce your risk for developing a cataract, but once one has developed, there is no cure except to have the cataract surgically removed. The time to have cataract surgery is when the cataract is affecting your vision enough to interfere with your normal lifestyle.

Traditional Cataract Surgery

With a routine, outpatient surgical procedure, an ophthalmologist can remove the cataract through a small incision using a technique called phacoemulsification. This technique uses ultrasonic sound waves to help break up the cataract into small pieces so they can be easily removed. Usually, a synthetic intraocular lens (IOL) made of either silicone or acrylic polymer is inserted at the time of cataract extraction to replace the focusing power of the natural lens. At Eye Care of Maine we are proud to provide cataract surgery in our state of the art Ambulatory Surgery Center. Here we can provide each patient with personalized care from our highly trained staff in a warm, friendly environment. Most cases take less than ten minutes. For the vast majority of patients we use topical anesthesia and sublingual medication, eliminate the need for intravenous medication and needles. Our cost per case is a fraction of the cost for cataract surgery performed at a hospital, which is especially important for those patients with limited or no insurance or on Medicare without supplemental insurance. Cataract surgery is a very successful operation. Almost three million people have this procedure every year in the United States, and more than 95% of people have a successful result. As with any surgical procedure, complications can occur during or after surgery, and some are severe enough to limit vision. But in most cases, vision, as well as quality of life, improves.

Intraocular Lens Options

Eye Care of Maine offers many options to customizing your vision with cataract surgery based on your individual needs. Listed below, you will find information that will help you understand the different lens choices and surgical outcomes available:

Traditional Monofocal Lens Implant

This is the most common type of implantable lens. With this single-vision lens, you will most likely need some form of glasses after surgery, even if you do not wear glasses before surgery. Medicare and most private insurances typically will reimburse approximately 80% to 100% of your cataract surgery costs and the monofocal lens.

Astigmatism-correcting TORIC Speciality Lens Implant

The Toric lens is specifically designed to treat the cataract and correct corneal astigmatism at the same time. In the past, a patient with high astigmatism still required glasses for near and distance vision. The toric IOL’s unique design provides quality single-vision and will significantly improve uncorrected distance vision. Most insurances including Medicare consider this an enhanced lens and do not cover the extra expense.

Multifocal Specialty Lens Implant

New technology has expanded lens choices to patients allowing them to choose to be almost completely glasses free. One of the choices is a multifocal lens implant which has several focal zones of different powers built into the lens. The part of the lens you look through will determine if you see clearly at far, near or intermediate distance. Imagine a virtually glasses-free lifestyle! Those who do need glasses only need them for very specific tasks. Typically people who choose this implant wear of have worn multi-focal contact lenses. This lens is considered an enhanced lens and is not typically covered by insurance companies.

Extended Range of Vision Specialty Lens Implant

The Symfony IOL is the first and only extended range of vision presbyopia-correcting IOL. This IOL provides continuous, high-quality vision at any distance! The goal of this lens is to keep you from reaching for reading glasses as much as possible. As with the multifocal lens implant, glasses may be needed for specific tasks and conditions. This lens is considered an enhanced lens and is not typically covered by insurance companies.

Symfony before and after

Have Your Glaucoma & Cataracts Addressed at the Same Time

If you have been managing your glaucoma symptoms with medication, and now are preparing for cataract surgery, iStent® insertion by Dr. Peter Kohler may be an ideal option for you. The iStent® is a tiny implant that’s helped thousands of people with glaucoma successfully manage their intraocular pressure. By taking advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity during cataract surgery, you can help address both of these conditions at the same time. Implanted during cataract surgery, iStent® can effectively lower IOP, one of the most important risk factors for glaucoma, and may reduce your reliance on glaucoma medication at the discretion of an eye care professional.