Correcting Cataracts and Astigmatism: Understanding the Difference
Cataracts and astigmatism are two very different things.
A cataract is the clouding of the natural human lens, typically occurring after the age of 60. Astigmatism is an irregularity of the shape of the cornea, and it generally presents itself in the teens or early twenties. Astigmatism is usually hereditary, whereas cataracts are age-related. In the past decade, there have been many advances in the types and styles of intraocular lens implants. These are the lenses that are placed in the eye after the natural lens (the cataract) has been removed. Until recently, these implanted lenses could not correct corneal astigmatism, so postoperative patients had to wear eyeglasses or contact lenses after surgery.
Now, all of this has changed with the advent of astigmatism correcting intraocular lenses (also called Toric IOL’s). This is great news! Our doctors have implanted many of these lenses since their approval, and the patient satisfaction is extraordinary.
Astigmatism is no longer a barrier to great uncorrected vision after cataract surgery. For decades, we have heard patients refer to astigmatism as if it were almost a disease. We heard comments like, “I can’t have LASIK because I have an astigmatism,” or, “I had my cataract removed, but I still need glasses because of my astigmatism.” Well, we have been able to correct corneal astigmatism during Laser Vision Correction (LASIK or PRK) for 20+ years, and now we can correct astigmatism beautifully during cataract surgery. These are tremendous advances for patients who have suffered with poorly corrected astigmatism. We now have a lot of options that result in great spectacle independence!