What are cataracts?
On the inside of the eye, right behind the pupil, sits our Crystalline Lens. Our lens is controlled by the ciliary muscle, which is responsible for the eye focusing from distance to near. Essentially, over time the lens gains layers of cells and as it gets thicker it becomes more rigid. This loss of elasticity contributes to the inability to focus at near as we age, therefore requiring reading glasses or multifocal lenses. As the lens thickens it also loses transparency, partially blocking the light from entering the eye, and this is when we classify it as a cataract.
Will I get cataracts?
Yes (is the short answer). Think of cataracts as more of a general aging process rather than a disease. In fact, most animals will develop cataracts, if they live long enough. The question doesn't come down to if they will develop, but if they will become visually significant and require intervention. Cataracts can affect the quality of the vision, decreasing contrast, clarity, and increase glare. Besides rare cases, cataracts are not necessarily unhealthy or bad to have, therefore it is generally considered elective to have them taken care of. Essentially, once you are getting new glasses and contacts and are still not happy with your vision, you are probably ready to consider getting a cataract consultation.
What is the treatment for cataracts?
As of now, the treatment for cataracts is surgery. That being said, it is one of the most frequently performed procedures and requires very little down time and no hospital stay. The procedure is over in a matter of minutes with very little discomfort and low rates of any complications. Much of the modern procedures uses lasers and ultrasound to remove your lens and replace it with an implant that has your prescription in it. 9 times out of 10 you would not require any correction at distance, but often will use reading glasses for near. There are plenty of options to allow patients to see at all distances following cataract surgery without the need for any glasses or contacts.
Does insurance cover cataract surgery?
Cataracts that are severe enough that they are affecting the vision and glasses or contacts cannot correct it would qualify as medically necessary to have the surgery and be covered by medical insurance. Check with the cataract surgeon's office to see if you qualify and with your insurance carrier to confirm your out-of-pocket expense after considering copays, deductibles, and co-insurance.
What are premium IOL (intra-ocular lens) implants?
Once the cataract is removed, it is replaced by an implant that corrects your vision. Think of a tiny contact lens that is inserted behind your pupil and remains there without the need for any maintenance for the remainder of your life. The standard implants, that are generally covered by insurance, are single vision meaning they can correct for either distance or near. Premium implants come in varieties that can correct for excessive astigmatism for extra clarity or have multifocal designs that allow patients to see at all distance simultaneously without requiring glasses or contacts. Premium IOLs will come with up-charges, while the procedure itself can still be covered by insurance.