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How Lasers Work When Removing Cataracts

Modern cataract surgery has come a long way. Traditionally, the surgery would have been done by hand with an actual blade, but with rapidly advancing eyecare technology including the use of powerful lasers and computers, the procedure has become even safer and more reliable than ever before. Understanding how some of these technologies work can give you a deeper insight as to why both cataract surgery and LASIK are considered so safe.

The Femtosecond Laser

Using a laser as opposed to a blade for eye surgery is undeniably more accurate. The laser creates a flap in the top of the cornea, allowing the surgeon to break up the affected lens and subsequently replace it with a synthetic lens called an IOL.

The use of the femtosecond laser has created major benefits for vision correction as a whole. As a result of the technology, there are significantly fewer instances of flap complications, surgeons have much better control over how thick the flap is as well as its diameter, and there are fewer things that can be left to human error.

The laser works by rapidly firing light at a certain wavelength (almost infrared) in an extraordinarily focused spot. The energy from the laser creates the plasma in the corneal tissue, which causes it to separate, therefore “cutting” into it. Photodisruption, as this process is called, cuts with microscopic precision, greatly reducing the odds of mistakenly cutting into the wrong tissue.


Lasers aren’t the only advance in technology that has elevated the technique of cataract surgery. New intraocular lenses that challenge the status quo are coming out all the time. Modern IOLs not only allow you to see by replacing your natural lens, they can also correct some people’s refractive errors—effectively reducing or eliminating the need for glasses as an awesome side benefit!

There are several different kinds of IOLs currently available on the market. What you get largely depends on your preferences and your doctor’s recommendations. The three basic types of IOLs are monofocal, multifocal, and accommodating.

Monofocal lenses are the most basic option. With these lenses, you will still need to rely on glasses somewhat, as they are designed to focus only at one particular length. There is an effective method called “monovision” that allows you to correct one eye for distance vision while leaving the other at a different focusing power. You can then “switch” between dominant eyes to get a good variety of focusing distance. However, some people may find this difficult to adjust to.

Multifocal lenses allow for seeing at near distance and far distance. There can be some discrepancy in the in-between part of the focal lengths.

Accommodating lenses fix this problem by adjusting their physical position in your eye, mimicking you natural lens closely. While this gives smoother transitions, some visual acuity at close range is lost.

If you would like to learn more about how cataract surgery works and what type of IOL best suits you, set up a cataract appointment with Dr. Diamante in Providence, RI!

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