Lens replacement: a long-term alternative to reading glasses

If you’re over 40 and struggling with reading things up close, are reading glasses the only option? Mr CT Pillai, medical director of Advanced Vision Care, explains how lens replacement surgery can offer a long-term alternative – and a future free from glasses.

If you are starting to have problems with reading and you are over the age of 40, you may be affected by a condition called presbyopia. Presbyopia is a natural age-related condition. It involves the gradual weakening of the eyes’ ability to focus on objects at a close distance, causing difficulties such as:

  • reading
  • looking at your phone
  • threading a needle
  • reading ingredients on food packages

Patients who are presbyopic will require reading glasses to carry out these tasks – or they will have to remove their distance glasses.

However, it can be annoying to take off your reading glasses and put them on again several times throughout the day. Some people simply do not like wearing glasses at all.

For these people, lens replacement surgery could be an ideal treatment.

What is lens replacement surgery?

Lens replacement surgery is where the natural crystalline lens of the eye is replaced with an artificial lens implant, also known as an intraocular lens.

Ongoing research and development into the types of intraocular lens (IOL) implants have led to widespread use of new generation trifocal IOLs. This new lens is designed to allow you to see objects clearly at a distance as well as close up.

The procedure itself is very well established and is exactly the same as a cataract operation, which has been widely performed worldwide since to 1950’s. When a patient develops a cataract, their natural lens becomes cloudy and hazy. When this clouding affects the vision, it becomes necessary to remove the clouded lens and replace it with a clear lens implant.

Lens replacement surgery is the exact same procedure, except the lens doesn’t need to have developed a cataract. The bonus of lens replacement is that, as well as offering correction of vision, it ensures that you will never develop cataracts in the future, meaning you can enjoy the rest of your life glasses-free.

Is lens replacement surgery safe?

Lens replacement surgery is an outpatient procedure and takes less approximately 20 minutes to perform. It is considered to be one of the safest and effective types of surgery.

The procedure involves making a micro-incision in the very periphery of the cornea, through which the natural lens is removed and replaced with a bespoke intraocular lens implant. There is no need for stitches due to the micro-incision being so small that it is self-healing.

Is lens replacement surgery painful?

Most patients do not report any pain during the procedure, as there are no nerves behind the cornea (the front surface of the eye). However, some report mild discomfort or pressure-like sensation. In any case, you’ll be given a mild sedative to help you relax.

In the days after surgery, the eye can sometimes feel a little bit tender and sensitive to light, so rest is beneficial to aid the healing process.

Do I need to take a lot of time off work?

Patients are usually advised to take 2-3 days off work immediately after the procedure. Patients are normally able to see fairly well the day after surgery, however it does take a few weeks for the vision to fully settle with trifocal intraocular lens implants (IOLs). This is a combination of healing and adaptation to the trifocal IOLs.

You will be able to perform most of your day to day tasks immediately after surgery without any difficulty, but strenuous physical exercise or activities should be restricted in the weeks following surgery.

How much does it cost?

The price of lens replacement surgery varies from clinic to clinic. Expect to pay between £6000 and £9000 for trifocal lens implants plus aftercare.

Lens replacement is not available on the NHS as it is considered elective surgery – it is carried out by choice for those wanting to be free from glasses who have not yet developed a cataract.

Cataract surgery is available on the NHS, but the intraocular lens implant used to replace the natural lens is a monofocal IOL, which only provides distance vision. Patients will require reading glasses (and sometimes distance glasses) after they undergo cataract surgery on the NHS. It is important to understand all the risks and side effects associated with the procedure, and to ensure that comprehensive aftercare is provided in case of any complication.

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