Improvements in the lenses implanted in the eye during cataract surgery have led to a new—and controversial—surgical option for people with presbyopia, a common form of farsightedness that typically develops in middle age. But a new report from Harvard Medical School urges people considering this operation to weigh its risks, as well as its benefits.
The recently developed implantable variable-focus lenses, which enable people to see objects at varying distances by shifting their eyes slightly, are currently FDA-approved only for patients undergoing cataract surgery. But some ophthalmologists are also implanting them into the eyes of people without cataracts in order to correct presbyopia. This requires removing the eyes' natural lenses, as is done in cataract surgery.
Preventing and Treating Eye Disease urges consumers to keep two things in mind before undergoing this surgery for presbyopia. First, it will not be covered by insurance unless you also have cataracts, and the cost can be $5,000 or more for each eye. Second, many ophthalmologists are reluctant to perform this procedure in people without cataracts because of the risks involved in any eye operation, as well as lack of information about long-term safety and effectiveness.
Risks of the operation include a very small chance of infection that may lead to blindness. It's also important to understand that this surgery will not produce clear 20/20 vision.