The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved new claims for Pfizer's Tecnis multifocal lens, making it the first eye lens implant for cataract patients with the potential to improve the safety of older drivers with cataracts and the people with whom they share the road.
According to ophthalmologist Jon Yokubaitis, MD, with The Eye Clinic, about 60 percent of people over age 65, and 70 percent of those over 75, have some degree of cataract development, a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. Approximately 2.5 million older people undergo cataract surgery each year in the United States, making it the most commonly performed surgery in the country.
During cataract surgery, the clouded lens of the eye is removed and replaced with an intraocular lens (IOL). Dr. Yokubaitis explains that IOLs have been around since the mid-1960s, though the first FDA approval for one occurred in 1981. Before that, he says if you had cataracts removed, you had to wear very thick glasses or special contact lenses in order to see anything clearly after the surgery.
Since the first lens implant was approved, Dr. Yokubaitis says that tremendous advances have been made in IOL technology. "In the past, the IOLs we implanted during cataract surgery were able to restore vision only in limited distance ranges, which meant most patients still had to use glasses or other corrective lenses following surgery to see for clear near vision. A few years ago IOL technology became available that allowed us to restore clear near and distance vision, as well as very good intermediate vision. We've been using the AcrySof ReStor, AcrySof Toric and the ReZoom lenses for several years, and last year we added the Tecnis to the range of premium IOL options we can offer our patients."
He explains that the TECNIS lens was specifically designed to improve the functional vision of cataract surgery patients. "Functional vision is the ability to see objects clearly under varying levels of light and in conditions such as rain, snow, fog and at night, which is often a problem for older patients," says Dr. Yokubaitis. "The TECNIS allows us to help with this, as well as to provide clear near and far vision. Most patients won't need glasses at all after cataract surgery, not even for reading."
Dr. Yokubaitis stresses that it's important to realize that not everyone is a candidate for the premium IOLS, and there is also no way to guarantee that every patient will be able to see well without eyeglasses or contact lenses after cataract surgery. Some of the factors that can decrease satisfaction with these IOLs include pre-existing astigmatism, incorrect positioning of the IOLs in the eye, and nighttime halos that some patients have experienced. "However, we are very excited to have these new options, including the TECNIS, available at The Eye Clinic, and our patients who have received them have been very satisfied with their results," he adds.