Traditional cataract surgery has primarily been used to restore distance vision. With this traditional approach, post-cataract surgery near vision is corrected using eyeglasses. You might find it surprising that after undergoing vision correction surgery, you still require eyeglasses for near vision reading. Well, what if there was a way to have cataract surgery and restore vision at all distances? There is, thanks to multifocal IOLs.
As the name implies, a multifocal IOL offers more than one lens power. The technology functions very much the same as progressive eyeglasses and multifocal contact lenses. The difference is that the lens is surgically implanted in the eye and offers a permanent, maintenance-free solution to presbyopia.
Multifocal IOL Types
There are several different types of multifocal IOLs approved by the FDA for use in the U.S. The lenses below are the most commonly used multifocal IOLs in the U.S., but you can speak with your surgeon about what other options may be available.
AcrySof IQ ReSTOR IOL – Developed by Alcon and FDA approved since 2005, AcrySof IQ ReSTOR IOLs boast patented optical technology called apodization which is responsible for the optimal distribution of light across varying distances and lighting conditions. The aspheric design of the AcrySof lenses helps to minimize aberrations and enhance vision clarity.
Tecnis Multifocal IOL – Developed by Abbott Medical Optics (AMO) and also approved since 2005, Tecnis multifocal IOLs function similarly to the AcrySof family, and boast a fully diffractive surface capable of providing 20/25 vision quality across varying distances and lighting conditions.
Are you a Candidate?
If you have cataracts and are looking for a vision solution that does not leave you dependent on reading glasses or bifocals, multifocal IOLs might be right for you. Keep in mind that a multifocal solution does require something of a compromise with regard to clarity of distance vision. If you require the best possible distance vision for work or are otherwise unwilling to accept this sort of compromise, a more traditional monofocal IOL is likely a better fit.
If you don’t suffer from cataracts, or if you have another preexisting condition affecting your vision, you may not be the best candidate for multifocal IOLs. During your initial consultation, you can speak with your eye doctor about your unique considerations and determine the best course of action. In some cases, surgeons recommend placing a multifocal lens in one eye, in order to achieve good near vision, and a monofocal lens in the other eye, in order to achieve good distance vision.
Multifocal vs Monofocal
The spherical design of monofocal lenses means that they are only capable of providing vision correction for nearsightedness or farsightedness. Although it is possible to attempt to correct one eye for distance vision and one for near vision (monovision), monofocal lens recipients generally require reading glasses or bifocals for close reading vision after surgery.
Multifocal IOLs address this issue directly by offering a lens replacement solution that boasts an aspherical design capable of restoring vision across varying distances.
Multifocal vs. Accommodating
Whereas multifocal IOLs provide several different focusing distances within the same lens, accommodating IOLs have only one focusing distance in the lens; but the lens actually allows your eye to change focusing distances as you look at distant or near objects. This is similar to the way you could focus up close or far away when you were younger. Because there is only one focusing distance in the lens, there is no loss of quality of distance vision (unlike a multifocal).
However, accommodating IOLs do not provide the same range of focus as young eyes, and may not allow you to see at very close distances without reading glasses, like you can with multifocal IOLs. Your surgeon can help you decide which lens is best based on your lifestyle and focusing needs.
How Much Do Multifocal IOLs Cost?
Multifocal IOLs are more expensive than traditional monofocal IOLs. Furthermore, because a multifocal IOL is considered a premium lens, it is not typically covered by insurance or Medicare. That means that if you opt for multifocal IOL implantation as part of cataract surgery, you will be required to pay the difference (most insurance policies do cover cataract surgery).
The out-of-pocket difference that you can expect to pay for a premium IOL is approximately $1,500 to $4,000 per eye. Many eye surgeons offer financing programs to help manage these additional costs.