Overview and History of Cataracts Surgery

Thankfully, in today's era of modern technology and advanced research, the need to go through life with blurred and foggy vision is no longer the only option. Cataracts surgery involve the removal of the affected lens and its subsequent replacement with a new, artificial lens that functions in an almost identical manner as the original. The replacement lens is permanent and is called an intraocular lens.

Before intraocular lenses were invented, the only option if the lens of the eye was removed was a) remain blind in the eye where the lens was extracted, b) use special cataracts glasses, or c) use special cataracts contact lenses. The glasses and contacts had to be made with extremely strong lenses to replace the extracted lens. Although theses two options were better than living blind, the glasses and contracts were uncomfortable and the glasses themselves very unattractive. Additionally, the visual improvement achieved with the glasses and lenses was negligible at best and caused various other problems such as distorted vision, troublesome far-sightedness and unusual depth perception.

In 1949, after studying shrapnel wounds in the eyes of soldiers during World War II, British ophthalmologist, Harold Ridley, became the first surgeon to ever replace a damaged human lens with an artificial, intraocular lens (IOL). Over the next years many doctors disagreed with replacing the natural lens with a foreign, artificial lens and the age of IOL devices almost came to a standstill.

However, over time, those who were convinced that IOL's were the wave of the future, continued inventing and experimenting. The original procedures and instrumentation were soon replaced by more advanced and higher quality materials and methods. Currently, the IOL's used in surgery are of excellent quality and results are outstanding.

Dr. David F. Chang and Dr. Howard Gimbel recently published a book called Cataracts - A Patient's Guide to Treatment. The following list was taken from their book: "Characteristics of Modern IOL's"

  • Permanently fixed inside the eye
  • Made of a transparent material that should never cloud.
  • No moving parts that can wear out
  • Lightweight and flexible
  • Not affected by physical activities or by rubbing the eye
  • Cannot be felt within the eye
  • Provide the best possible vision correction
  • Do not require cleaning
  • Do not change the appearance or comfort of the eye
  • Can be folded for insertion through a small incision; it then unfolds to original size" 14

The modern day IOL's give patients the best possible natural results that an artificial lens can provide and are available in a large number of strengths. The strength required for each patient is determined before surgery and will correct for near or far-sightedness.