Refractive Lens Exchange ( RLE )
Refractive lens exchange, also known as clear lens extraction, is a surgical procedure that replaces the natural lens with an intraocular lens (IOL) to correct farsightedness, nearsightedness or astigmatism. Offered as an alternative to laser vision correction, this procedure avoids the need for corneal modification that is used during the LASIK procedure, and instead involves the same procedure used in cataract surgery.
Patients who choose to undergo refractive lens exchange have several options when it comes to the IOL that will be implanted into the eye. This procedure uses the same IOLs as cataract surgery, and can treat all visual disorders, including astigmatism. We offer patients the most advanced premium IOLs that allow patients to see clearly at all distances. Some of the most common IOLs include Crystalens®, ReSTOR®, TECNIS® and Toric lenses.
Candidates for Refractive Lens Exchange
Refractive lens exchange is ideal for patients who:
- Want to reduce or eliminate their dependence on glasses or contact lenses
- Are over 50 years old
- Have high myopia (nearsightedness), high hyperopia (farsightedness), presbyopia (aged eye), astigmatism, with or without cataracts
- Have early symptoms of cataracts
Many patients with extreme farsightedness or nearsightedness are not candidates for LASIK, and seek vision correction through refractive lens exchange.
Patients with astigmatism can undergo additional correction during their procedure through relaxing incisions in the outer margins of the cornea, known as Limbal Relaxing Incisions (LRI). These incisions create a symmetrical cornea and help reduce or even eliminate astigmatism in the eye. There are also new IOLs that correct astigmatism and allow these patients to see as clearly as others.
Refractive Lens Exchange Procedure
Refractive lens exchange is performed on an outpatient basis and uses the same techniques as cataract surgery. Instead of removing a cloudy lens, the goal of this procedure is to reduce a patient's dependence on glasses or contact lenses by inserting a corrective lens.
Local anesthesia is applied to the eyes to minimize discomfort during this procedure. The natural lens is removed through a tiny incision of 2.8mm or less and replaced with an IOL that is inserted through the same incision. Once inserted, the lens unfolds and moves into its permanent position in the eye. There are no stitches needed as the incisions can heal themselves. The refractive lens exchange procedure takes just 20 minutes to perform and offers patients significant and immediate results.
Results and Recovery from Refractive Lens Exchange
After refractive lens exchange, patients can return home the same day, and can return to work and other regular activities after a day or two. Many report immediate improvements to their vision, and vision will continue to improve as the brain adapts to the new lens. Once vision has stabilized, it will likely stay the same over time as the lenses correct vision and also prevent the patient from developing cataracts in the future. The second eye is usually treated a few weeks after the first procedure.
The extent of your results will depend upon your individual eyes, lifestyle , the IOL you choose and several other factors. Many patients are able to eliminate their dependence on glasses or contacts after this procedure, while others may still need glasses for driving or reading in case of residual astigmatism.
The risks and complications of Refractive Lens Exchange are exactly the same as those in cataract surgery.
Your doctor will discuss these risks with you, along with the benefits of the procedure, before deciding if refractive lens exchange is right for you. Patients can minimize these risks by choosing an experienced doctor to perform their procedure.