Cataract surgery, which replaces the eye’s cloudy lens with an artificial clear lens (called an intraocular lens, or IOL), is the most common operation in the U.S. More than half of adults over age 65 have some degree of cataract development. People 65 and older are also more likely to be involved in car crashes than people in their 30s, 40s and 50s. Now an innovative night vision-enhancing IOL can help elderly drivers with cataracts avoid accidents.
Manufactured by Pfizer Inc., the Tecnis® IOL was designed to provide cataract surgery patients with high-quality vision comparable to that of young people. Its main concern is improving safety with vision correction. It is meant to improve functional vision – the ability to see objects in varying light conditions – especially at night and twilight and in rain, snow and fog. This means improved night vision and reduction of spherical aberrations, an undesirable scattering of light that is a common side effect of cataract surgery.
The lens was approved as an IOL by the FDA in 2002. In April 2004 it was approved again as a driving aid.
In tests, drivers 65 and older wearing a silicone Tecnis lens were able to recognize objects faster, improving their braking response time by half a second and stopping about 60 feet shorter than drivers wearing traditional acrylic lenses.
Risks are the same as with any other IOL implantation in cataract surgery and include corneal edema, iritis, hyphema, macular edema, retinal detachment and lens dislocation.