What is an Intraocular Lens?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2018
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An intraocular lens is a medical device which can be implanted in an eye to replace a lens which has been removed. Intraocular lenses are classically used in the treatment of cataracts, with the cataract being removed and replaced with an artificial lens, although they can also be used to correct certain types of vision problems. The technology behind intraocular lenses has been around since 1949, when the first one was implanted in Britain, but it has improved significantly since the early days, with a number of options available to patients today.

Plastics, acrylic, and silicone are all used to make intraocular lenses. Some are hard, while others are flexible. A flexible intraocular lens is easier to insert, requiring less invasive surgical techniques and reducing the healing time for the patient. The procedure can often be done under local anesthesia, with the patient awake during the surgery, and a skilled opthalmologic surgeon can usually implant an intraocular lens in less than an hour.

The most basic design is monofocal, providing basic vision correction for the patient, with the need for glasses for seeing up close. Multifocial and accommodating intraocular lenses provide more vision correction, and may eliminate the need for glasses. Specialized toric lenses which correct astigmatism are also available, as are lenses which filter out certain ranges of light to protect the eye from damage which can be caused by UV exposure.


Not all patients are good candidates for an intraocular lens implant. They should talk about the risks and benefits of the procedure with a surgeon, and undergo thorough evaluation to confirm that the procedure would be a good choice, given their medical condition. If a patient is not a good candidate, a doctor can recommend other options. A patient may simply need to wait for vision problems to stabilize before surgery, making do with glasses in the meantime.

There is a brief adjustment period after an intraocular lens is implanted in which a patient will need to grow accustomed to the lens. The period after surgery is also the time when complications such as infections may emerge. It is important to make follow up visits so that a doctor can monitor eye health and check the placement of the lens to confirm that everything was done correctly and is healing well. If vision correction with glasses is needed, an eye exam can also be conducted to determine what type of correction is needed.



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