Refractive Lens Exchange
Refractive Lens Exchange is a surgical vision correction option that involves the removal and replacement of your natural lens with an artificial lens. In doing so, this can correct vision (nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and presbyopia) and eliminate the future need for cataract surgery. Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE) is increasing in popularity in patients over the age of 40 who want to decrease or eliminate their dependence on eyeglasses or contacts.
When we are younger, the natural lens functions similar to the zoom function in a camera, allowing us to focus up close, without the need for reading glasses or bifocals. As we age, the lens progressively loses its flexibility, resulting in the gradual loss of near vision (presbyopia) that requires the use of reading glasses or bifocals. Eventually, the same lens gradually hardens and becomes cloudy (cataract), which scatters light coming into the eye, thereby reducing visual quality, color perception, and visual acuity. Refractive Lens Exchange prevents progression of this process as the synthetic lens will not undergo any of these same changes.
What are the benefits of Refractive Lens Exchange?
Refractive Lens Exchange has many benefits, particularly the improvement in both distance and near vision. The lens implant options are the same as those used with cataract surgery. Advantages of this procedure can include:
- Correction of common refractive errors such as myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism
- Can often be an ideal option for patients with more severe refractive errors
- Reduction – and even elimination – of reliance on eyeglasses and contact lenses
- Can serve as an alternative to procedures such as LASIK or PRK for patients who are not candidates for those treatments and for individuals who do not wish to have laser surgery
- The potential for cataracts is eliminated
How is the RLE procedure performed?
Refractive Lens Exchange surgery is performed by our experienced ophthalmologist in an outpatient surgery center. Upon arrival at the center, topical anesthesia is applied with eye drops, and there is generally no need for needles. A mild sedative is given to prepare you for surgery. Patients are generally quite comfortable during surgery, with no pain but only a pressure sensation and the appearance of a “light show.” During this time, the natural lens is broken up using vibrations into tiny particles that are then removed from the eye. Generally, no sutures are needed as the incision is very small and self-sealing. Surgery is performed one eye at a time. The other eye may be treated as soon as 1-2 weeks later.
What about the recovery process?
Recovery from Refractive Lens Exchange typically involves minimal restrictions, even immediately after surgery. You will be using antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eye drops for a few weeks to aid in the healing process. Standard post-op visits are 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 6 months and then yearly. You will need to have someone drive you home after surgery due to the sedatives used. Most patients find that they can usually return to work after the first post-op visit.
Intraocular Lens Options
The intraocular lens implant (IOL) that is chosen for your Refractive Lens Exchange procedure will be based on your unique visual needs. During your eye evaluation and initial consultation, our ophthalmologist will determine the type of vision correction you require and discuss your IOL options with you. Gulfcoast Eyecare offers a comprehensive selection of IOLs designed to help patients see more clearly at a range of distances. Monofocal IOLs can help patients who are nearsighted or farsighted; however, these options may not be ideal for individuals with both of these concerns. For patients who need correction for both near- and far-distant vision, a multifocal lens or accommodating lens is often preferred. Many of these lenses can improve near, far, and intermediate vision, dramatically reducing the need for the use of corrective eyewear during virtually any type of activity.
Some of the state-of-the-art intraocular lenses available at our practice include:
- Monofocal Lens
- Toric Lens – this lens can often be a good option for patients with astigmatism
- Lifestyle Lens (Multifocal, Accommodative, and Extended Depth of Focus Lenses)
- TECNIS® Multifocal
- TECNIS Symfony®
- Monovision – this option can benefit patients who need one eye corrected for near or intermediate vision and the other corrected for distance vision
During your consultation, our eye doctor will evaluate your vision and talk with you about the lens that can be most ideal for your individual needs. Some types of lens implants are more ideal than others based on the current condition of your eyes, rather than just the degree of your refractive errors. For instance: certain Lifestyle Lenses may not be ideal for patients who have an extensive amount of astigmatism or eye conditions such as macular degeneration, advanced glaucoma, or other serious eye diseases. With that in mind, it’s important to note that while one lens option may not be the best choice in your particular case, another may serve as a good alternative. That’s one of the many benefits of having such a range of options when it comes to IOLs – there are numerous types of lenses that help expand the selection for patients with a variety of needs and goals. Our Intraocular Lens Implants page goes into further detail about the many options available.
To learn more and to determine whether Refractive Lens Exchange may be an option for you, contact Gulfcoast Eye Care to schedule an appointment.