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Light adjustable lenses, or adjustable intraocular lenses, are a modern intraocular lens type that can provide more precise vision adjustments for cataract patients.
Through the use of math and material science, a doctor can adjust the lens once it is in the eye with a UV light, which can improve the patient’s vision and may even remove the need for reading glasses.
What Is a Light Adjustable Lens?
A light adjustable lens (LAL) is a special type of lens developed by RxSight. This lens is a type of intraocular lens (IOL), a synthetic lens that gets surgically placed into the eye.
RxSight claims their lens can help cataract patients achieve better results overall compared to traditional options. They cite an FDA report that showed significantly better results than control subjects after a period of six months.
Uses of LALs
As their name implies, light adjustable lenses can adjust. This means that once inserted into the eye, a doctor can further refine a patient’s vision with a noninvasive procedure.
This is in contrast to traditional IOLs, which generally require surgery to make further adjustments. The ability to adjust a lens without posing a significant risk to a patient’s eye is a substantial and proven benefit of LALs.
How Light Adjustable Lenses Work
RxSight has developed light adjustable lenses to use special UV-sensitive material. With a precise UV laser, a doctor can cause the material to adjust and improve a patient’s sight further in only a few minutes.
A doctor uses math and complex material science to bend the lens to best suit the patient’s needs. Once the patient no longer needs adjustments, the material gets a final treatment so that natural UV light doesn’t adjust the lens during everyday use.
While infinite sight adjustment is not possible, the ability to adjust at all means that a doctor can help a patient refine a lens beyond the parameters initially assumed to be ideal. In practice, this means more patients can get the maximum level of vision correction that is realistically possible from their lens.
What to Expect With Adjustable Intraocular Lenses
As an IOL, light adjustable lenses replace your eye’s natural lens, which gets removed during cataract surgery. Because it is a synthetic lens, doctors can have IOLs shaped much like a contact lens or pair of glasses.
This means an IOL can correct nearsightedness or farsightedness, with a monofocal IOL correcting for one issue. Multifocal IOLs can correct for both nearsightedness and farsightedness, working in the eye much like bifocal glasses do.
After cataract surgery, it is common for patients to experience refractive errors. In essence, many cataract patients require glasses after their surgery. The adjustable properties of light adjustable lenses mean a doctor may reduce or even erase your need for glasses through adjustments.
From the point of getting a light adjustable lens implanted to your final adjustment, you will wear special UV protective glasses. These glasses help to prevent natural UV light from interfering with your lenses until the final treatment is complete.
Costs of Light Adjustable Lenses
A cohort study of 15 practices showed light adjustable lenses cost an average of $4,310. According to the study, LAL procedures represented 24.9 percent of premium procedures performed at these practices. Notably, participants in this study also had higher premium pricing than average, meaning the actual national average for a light adjustable lens procedure may be less.
Insurance companies will consider LAL procedures as premium procedures. Many insurance plans don’t cover premium cataract procedures, as cheaper alternatives exist that can provide comparable results.
Ultimately, coverage of these lenses will vary widely by insurance provider. Many companies cover up to the cost of a standard lens and then require a customer to pay the difference between the standard and premium lens cost.
LALs vs. Traditional IOLs
Based on current literature and patient satisfaction data, an argument exists that LALs represent a better option than traditional IOLs for relevant patients. The only notable downside of these lenses that doesn’t also apply to traditional IOLs is cost.
While the follow-up UV treatments and need for UV glasses may be inconvenient, the benefits those treatments allow for more than justify that inconvenience.
Where Can You Get Adjustable Intraocular Lenses?
Since FDA approval for the U.S. market, you can get light adjustable lenses implanted at most facilities capable of performing other premium IOL procedures.
Light Adjustable Lenses FAQs
What is a light adjustable lens?
A light adjustable lens is a small ocular lens that can adjust under UV light. Once a patient has had the necessary adjustments, a doctor provides one final treatment that “locks” the shape of the lens.
Are light adjustable lenses good?
Data suggests light adjustable lenses provide a meaningful improvement to the vision of cataract patients, more so than standard IOLS, which sometimes provide less vision correction than a patient might desire. While a light adjustable lens does not necessarily provide “perfect” vision, it is a valid treatment for cataract patients and worth discussing with your doctor.
FDA Approves First Implanted Lens That Can Be Adjusted After Cataract Surgery to Improve Vision Without Eyeglasses in Some Patients. (November 2017). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
IOL Implants: Lens Replacement After Cataracts. (April 2021). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Medical Coverage Policy | Multifocal / Accommodating Intraocular Lens (IOL). (November 2014). Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island.
Patient-Reported Outcomes in Intraocular Lens Labeling. (November 2017). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Review of Ophthalmology: Annual IOL Issue, January 2018. (January 2018). Review of Ophthalmology.
Summary of Safety and Effectiveness Data (SSED). (November 2017). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.