We live in an era of great technological advances. Some of our achievements in electronics, communication, computers and medicine have improved our quality of life, while others have made us safer or healthier. In the field of Ophthalmology, we strive to improve vision at all ages. Recently this goal has been attained for many patients undergoing cataract surgery with a new type of lens implant.
A cataract is a clouding of the lens that causes progressive deterioration in vision. Removing the cataract requires removal of the lens of the eye. In the 1970s, intra-ocular lens implants were used to replace the cloudy lens but they could not correct vision deficits. As lens design and measurement techniques improved, many patients who had problems with distance vision could have that improved when the cataract/cloudy lens was removed by replacing it with a corrective implant. After cataract surgery, the majority of patients with vision problems would only need glasses to see up close.
The latest improvement in artificial lens technology is aimed at allowing patients complete freedom from glasses after cataract surgery. A new type of implant, called a “PanOptix” lens, has a combination of distance, intermediate and near zones of focus. This allows you to read a road sign on the horizon, the computer screen at your desk or the newspaper on your lap WITHOUT the aid of glasses. PanOptix lens implants do not work like bifocal glasses, where the focal distance depends upon the direction that the eye looks. They also don’t work like the lens of a youthful eye, which changes its’ focus depending upon the distance of the object. With the PanOptix lens implant, distant, intermediate and near objects are in focus simultaneously.
Clinical studies and experience have proven the PanOptix lens implants to be very successful, with a high rate of patient satisfaction. These lenses are Quad-focal, which allows for blending of vision in all useful zones. This is an advancement from the earlier Dual-zone lenses which could not provide all zones of vision correction. More than 99% of patients who received these lenses with cataract surgery would choose the same lens again if they had the chance.
However, there are limitations to the PanOptix lens implant. The most frequent deterrent is affordability. Unlike standard lens implants, the PanOptix lens is not completely covered by Medicare and other insurance carriers. Although there is a separate charge for the multi-focal lens, financing is usually an option. The PanOptix lens also requires a healthy visual system to work properly. So, patients with certain types of eye disease are not good candidates. Another limitation is the possibility of night vision problems, such as glare and halos when driving. This can occur after a standard lens implant but it is more common with a PanOptix lens. Due to technological advances, these symptoms are less prominent and less bothersome than earlier Multi-focal lenses.
Like any new technology, there are pros and cons to the PanOptix lens implant. For many people it is a long-awaited opportunity to become independent from glasses. If you are interested in learning more about PanOptix lenses or about cataract surgery, contact your ophthalmologist to discuss this new and exciting innovation.
Author: Michael Keverline, M.D.