​For almost three years, Mr Kang, a real estate agent, lived with worsening eyesight due to cataracts. But despite his blurred vision, he carried on with his daily activities and did not see the need for an operation.

"Although it was uncomfortable – like seeing smoke in front of you all the time – I could live with it," he said.

Finally, having no other choice, he underwent surgery last year and was pleasantly surprised to learn that not only could he have his cataracts removed, he could also correct his astigmatism, longsightedness (hyperopia) and near vision (presbyopia) in one fell swoop.

No need for spectacles

Mr Kang had premium multifocal lenses inserted into his eyes, one at a time, two weeks apart. After the procedure, he was able to do away with his multifocal spectacles, which he had worn for 10 years. "My eyesight is almost perfect now. The best part is that I don’t need to wear specs anymore," he said.

He does, however, see halos around lights at night, but is not bothered by it. "I've no regrets and have recommended it to quite a few friends," he said.

Mr Kang is among a growing number of cataract patients at Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) who have opted for premium intraocular lens implants. In cataract surgery, the cloudy film that blurs vision is removed and a lens implanted. Those who needed spectacles previously may be able to give them up after getting the lenses.

Lenses that multitask

In recent years, cataract operations have become not just about removing cataracts. Premium lenses allow other conditions such as Mr Kang’s, as well as myopia (shortsightedness), to be fixed at the same time during these operations.

Premium lenses are the result of the convergence of both cataract and refractive surgery technologies. This worldwide trend has made these procedures more convenient, and provides opportunities for patients to improve their vision and become spectacle-free.

 

According to Professor Chee Soon Phaik, Head and Senior Consultant, Cataract Department​, Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC), a member of the SingHealth group, 11 per cent of the 10,500 cataract procedures performed each year at SNEC involve the use of premium intraocular lens implants. About 50 to 70 per cent of her patients – from young professionals to older housewives – opt for premium lenses.

"Premium lenses enable a surgeon to offer patients the option of not just targeting good distance vision, but also correcting astigmatism to give very sharp vision," said Assoc Prof Chee.

Very small incisions

The incision allows surgeons to better control post-operation astigmatism and centre the lens more precisely, enhancing its performance. Lens materials have also improved, resulting in lenses that can now be scrolled up and slid through very small incisions, before opening to full size in the eyes.

This ability to remove cataracts through increasingly small incisions has made cataract surgery safer for patients.

Not for everyone

Prof Chee cautioned that not everyone will benefit from these premium lenses and that total spectacle independence will not be possible for some patients, as the outcome depends on individual eye conditions.

For instance, monofocal and toric intraocular lenses can be used for any eye condition, including those with astigmatism. However, implants with multifocal components are reserved for eyes which are perfectly healthy except for cataracts. "The decision is based on the patient’s eye condition, visual needs, lifestyle and cost," said ​Prof Chee.

Premium lenses are also generally priced higher, depending on the type of lens. The cost of cataract operations can be claimed from Medisave and, depending on the particular policy one subscribes to, health insurance may cover this procedure for any type of lens.

Ref: O17