Pseudophakia means “fake lens.” It’s a term that’s used after you’ve had an artificial lens implanted in your eye to replace your own natural lens. This is done during cataract surgery. The implanted lens is called an intraocular lens (IOL) or pseudophakic IOL.
You’ll need a pseudophakic IOL if you have a cataract removed. A cataract is a clouding of the lens — the clear part of your eye.
The lens helps focus light onto your retina. This is the layer of light-sensitive tissue in the back of your eye.
As you get older, protein in your lens begins to clump together and form a cataract that clouds your vision. The more the cataract grows, the blurrier your vision will become.
Cataracts become very common as people get older. By age 80, most people will have a cataract. Replacing the clouded lens can restore clear vision.
Signs that you have a cataract include:
- cloudy or blurred vision
- faded colors
- trouble seeing at night
- sensitivity to glare from sunlight, lamps, or headlights
- double vision in one eye
- frequent need to change your eyeglass or contact lens prescription
- a need for brighter light when you read or do other close-up activities
Your eye doctor can determine whether you need an IOL by doing an eye exam. You might have one or more of these vision tests:
- Visual acuity test: This test checks your vision by having you read the letters on an eye chart with one eye closed at a time.
- Slit-lamp exam: Your doctor uses a special lighted device to look for problems with your iris, lens, and other structures in your eye.
- Retinal exam: Your doctor will first give you drops to dilate (widen) your pupils. This makes it easier to examine your retina. Then your doctor will use a special device to examine your retina and lens for signs of a cataract or other diseases.
Surgery to replace the clouded lens is the main treatment for cataracts.
Before your surgery, your doctor will measure the size and shape of your eye to choose the right lens. You’ll get drops to dilate your pupil. The area around your eye will be cleaned.
You’ll also get medication to numb your eye so you don’t feel any pain.
Your doctor will remove your clouded lens with one of these techniques:
- Phacoemulsification: Your doctor makes a tiny cut in the front of your eye. A probe that sends out ultrasound waves is inserted into the cut to break up the cataract. The pieces of the old lens are then suctioned out.
- Laser: Your doctor uses a laser to make a small cut in the eye and break up the cataract for removal.
- Extracapsular cataract incision: Your doctor makes a larger cut in the front of the eye and removes the whole cataract.
After your old lens comes out, your doctor will implant the new lens in the space it leaves behind. The incision is then closed. A patch or shield will go over your eye to protect it while it heals.
You can go home on the same day as your surgery, but plan ahead for a ride home. You’ll need someone to drive you.
Possible side effects of pseudophakia include:
- too much or too little vision correction
- the lens is placed in the wrong position
- the lens moves out of place, blurring your vision
- fluid buildup and swelling in the retina, called Irvine-Gass syndrome
Risks of cataract surgery include:
- swelling and redness in the eye
- vision loss
- double vision
- increased pressure in the eye, which could lead to glaucoma
- retinal detachment
Cataract surgery with pseudophakic IOL can improve vision in about 90 percent of people who have the procedure.
Most implanted IOLs are monofocal. They can only focus at one distance — close up or far away. However, multifocal lenses are also available for some individuals.
After your surgery, you’ll most likely need to wear glasses for reading or driving, depending on which type of IOL you get.