Light adjustable lenses: Customize your vision after cataract surgery

Older man getting his eyes checked

Everyone’s eyes are unique – different from anyone else in the world. Still, eyes aren’t just to set you apart or even allow you to see; they provide a glimpse into your body’s overall health. So, paying attention to any issue that affects your eyes is necessary.

What are cataracts?

One of the most common eye conditions is cataracts, which occur when your eye’s natural lens turns cloudy. As proteins in this lens break down, you may experience symptoms like:

  • Blurry vision
  • Extra sensitivity to light
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • Less color in your vision
  • In rare instances, double vision

“Most people who live long enough get cataracts, and most end up getting cataract surgery,” says ophthalmologist Brent Timperley, MD. “That’s why cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgeries in the world.”

Luckily, cataract surgery is also a relatively simple procedure. “Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure, so you can go home the same day,” says Dr. Timperley. “Typically, the procedure only takes about 10 minutes."

What is cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery involves a surgeon removing the cataract affecting the natural lens and replacing it with an artificial lens – called an intraocular lens, or IOL. The history of IOL implants is extensive, dating back to 1949.

“Lens implants come in several different powers and types,” says Dr. Timperley. The different kinds of IOL implants include:

  • Monofocal – has one type of focus, which many people set for seeing at a distance. These patients then need glasses for reading or near work
  • Multifocal – provides vision at both near and far distances through several zones with different powers, like bifocal glasses
  • Toric – designed for those with astigmatism
  • Light-adjustable – is a type of monofocal lens, but one your doctor can adjust post-surgery

“To determine the best implant for you, we take measurements of your eye – the length of the eye and curvature of the cornea – before surgery,” says Dr. Timperley. “Then, we use formulas to select the power of implant you require.”

“You’ll need to take it easy for a week after cataract surgery,” says Dr. Timperley. During this time, you’ll want to avoid:

  • Heavy lifting or other strenuous activity
  • Swimming
  • Rubbing your eye

“If you’ve planned cataract surgery for both eyes, you’ll typically wait two weeks between each eye to ensure the first is healing properly. You’ll also need to use eye drops after cataract surgery, usually for about a month.” These drops will help treat discomfort in your eye and decrease the risk of swelling or infection.

Those who opt for light-adjustable lenses will have a slightly more involved recovery. With a light-adjustable lens, you must wear special glasses during recovery to ensure no UV light enters the lens. You must wear these glasses during all waking hours to protect your new lenses and ensure no unintended vision changes occur from UV exposure until 24 hours after your final light treatment.

What are light-adjustable lenses?

Your provider can adjust the strength of a light-adjustable lens, also known as LAL, after your cataract surgery, unlike other IOLs. “So, if the lens power is off a little bit, or if you have astigmatism, we can correct it by changing the artificial lens with a light adjustment,” says Dr. Timperley. “Using a special UV light, we can lock in your optimal vision in usually three sessions – each of which takes only a couple of minutes.”

This ability to adjust is important because of the formulas used for cataract surgery. “While these formulas have improved over the years, they’re not perfect,” says Dr. Timperley. “Usually, we get it pretty close, but it’s more difficult for some patients.”

Why choose light-adjustable lenses?

As mentioned above, it’s harder for providers to determine the proper power for an IOL implant for some patients, such as those who have previously undergone refractive surgery, such as LASIK. These patients are ideal candidates for a light-adjustable lens.

“Additionally, those considering monovision or blended vision should look into a LAL as we can dial in the exact amount of nearsightedness you want,” says Dr. Timperley. “If you don’t want to wear glasses – LALs are also ideal. We can correct both eyes for far away, or one for distance and one for near vision.  We can then adjust and lock in the best possible power for each.”

“There is a hassle of having to wear the protective glasses for a prolonged period after having light-adjustable lens implants, which may be a deterrent for some,” says Dr. Timperley. Some patients don’t qualify for LALs due to specific eye conditions like macular degeneration. Your provider can tell you if you are eligible during your initial consultation.

Overall, the light-adjustable lens – first patented in 2017 – is a breakthrough in cataract surgery, allowing your medical provider to optimize your post-surgical vision. In an FDA study, those with a LAL were twice as likely to achieve 20/20 vision without glasses than those with a standard monofocal IOL.

Want to learn more about light-adjustable lenses or other IOL options for cataract surgery? Call 402.559.2020 to schedule an appointment today.