Cataracts impact 2.5 million Canadians a year. Many don't understand what cataracts are or how artificial eye lenses can help. If you or someone you know is struggling with cataracts, keep reading to learn more about cataracts and cataract treatments.
What is Cataract Surgery?
As you age, the lenses in your eye become thicker and begin to cloud. Eventually, the clouding can obscure your vision so much that glasses and contacts do not correct it.
This clouding can begin in your 40s, but cataracts causing vision impairment usually happen around 60. Health factors like diabetes or smoking can also lead to cataracts.
The goal of cataract surgery is to remove the clouding lens from your eye.
During cataract surgery, your surgeon will numb the area around your eye with a local anesthetic. They will then either break up the damaged lens with an ultrasound probe or make an incision and remove the lens in one piece. Both options usually only take 45 minutes at most to be done.
After the surgeon removes the damaged lens, they will insert an artificial intraocular lens. This lens replaces the one they just took out. The lenses come in a variety of options that can help improve your vision.
What Is Intraocular Lens and What Is It Made Of?
An Intraocular Lens (IOL) is a small, artificial lens of your eye. It's part of the surgery that replaces the eye's natural lens(es) to fix cataracts.
Artificial eye lenses are made of either acrylic or silicone. Acrylic implants are a clear, thin material that replaces the lens after cataract surgery. The silicone lenses don't absorb water, so it's placed inside the eye.
What Are the Different Kinds of IOL Lenses?
There are many options for the type of artificial lens you can use to correct your vision after cataract surgery. Your doctor will help you decide which lens type is best for you.
Monofocal lenses will correct either distance or up-close vision, not both. Whichever one is not corrected may require glasses.
Patients will be able to pick the distance they will be able to see at themselves. For example, you can have one eye set for up-close vision, and the other set for far away vision. This can take some adjusting but can help balance the image sent to your brain.
Standard monofocal lenses will only correct vision. Wavefront monofocal lenses will also correct slight spherical aberrations. This will make the amount of contrast you see when looking out higher.
These lenses can be more affordable than other types of lenses because they only correct one thing.
Multifocal lenses help improve both near and far vision. Having two focal points can help with switching between a task that requires you to look far away and tasks that require up-close vision.
These lenses can eliminate the need for glasses. They do take some getting used to. Once you've adjusted, it's easy to use.
Corneal Astigmatism Lenses
Your eye is naturally a rounder shape. Astigmatism causes the shape of the eye to be more of a football shape. When someone with astigmatism needs a new artificial lens, it is made to fit their eye specifically.
Toric lenses are foldable lenses that can help reduce or remove astigmatism. When inserted after surgery, these lenses are oriented to the position needed to correct astigmatism.
This lens type comes in both monofocal and multifocal lens options. Regardless, it can help improve distance vision for patients with astigmatism.
What Kind of Maintenance Do Artificial Eye Lenses Require?
Your vision will be restored two weeks after surgery. It's recommended that after surgery you don't get water in your eyes or lifting heavy objects.
The interocular lenses can last your entire life, so picking the right lens is vital. Unlike contacts or glasses, there is no cleaning or maintenance procedure. The artificial lenses stay in your eye and do not come out.
Do the Canadian Health Care Programs Cover Cataract Surgery?
Yes, Canadian Health Care Programs will cover cataract surgery. Each region varies in its coverage.
The Ontario health plan will not cover general eye exams for those between 20 and 64 unless they have a specific condition. This is important for cataract surgery because regular vision exams help catch cataracts before they spread too far.
If you have this plan, it will cover cataract and lens replacement surgeries.
Unless medically required, the Alberta plan will not cover eye exams for people between 19 and 64. It will cover cataract surgery if it is medically needed. Contacting the Alberta government will help you determine coverage.
The Medical Services Plan of British Columbia will not cover eye exams for people between 19 and 64 unless medically required. If your cataract surgery is medically necessary, it will be covered.
Manitoba's medical program will not cover eye exams for members ages 19 to 64. Medically required surgeries, like cataract surgery, will be covered.
The Medical Care Plan in Newfoundland Labrador will not cover eye exams either. They also may not cover cataract surgery, but calling will be the best way to verify if they will cover it for you or not.
The Saskatchewan Health services will partially cover optometry services. Medically required surgical procedures can be covered as well. Cataract surgery will at least be partially covered.
The Yukon Health Care Insurance Plan will cover optometrists, but it varies from physician to physician. Cataract surgeries considered to be medically required will be covered by the plan.
Can Cataract Surgery Be Done Privately?
If you use one of the above health care plans, odds are your cataract surgery will be done for free. However, there are important things to consider when getting the surgery done for free.
When going through a public health care provider, you have to get the surgery approved by them before you have it done. This approval process is so they can determine if it is medically required or not.
Your medical provider should cover all lens types, but some medical providers will only allow you to receive the bare minimum. This reduces the choice you have in the amount of correction you receive.
Another dilemma that comes with free cataract surgery is the wait times. Cataract surgery is in high demand. Sometimes the wait can be over a year long.
Private Cataract Surgery
Privately done cataract surgeries are an option! A major benefit of getting it done privately is it can happen within weeks of a diagnosis. This helps reduce the amount of time you have to spend with blurred or distorted vision.
Going with the private option will allow you to pick from any type of lens. With new lens technology coming out, you don't have to wait for it to reach the public market. Having all options available means more flexibility in picking the right lens for your lifestyle.
The average cost for private cataract surgery is between $2,000-$3,000. This can seem like a lot when the other option is getting it for free. But being able to get in faster and have more options available to you can be beneficial long term.
You only get to pick out your lens type once, so having everything available will allow you to make the best choice. Having to wait for surgery means having to coordinate visual aids, which can be a hassle. You can also go anywhere and see anyone for your surgery.
Pick the Best Artificial Lens for Your Surgery
There are many different types of artificial eye lenses to choose from when it comes to improving your vision after cataract surgery. The choice doesn't have to be difficult. This guide is a great way to start a conversation with your doctor about which lens will be perfect for you and your eyes.
If you're looking to schedule a cataract surgery, it's important to know what medical providers have to offer you. Insurdinary can compare costs to find you Canada's lowest insurance rate. Compare health insurance plans today to find out which public or private option will fit your needs!