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Refractive Lens Exchange – Not Just for Cataracts!

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How does this vision correction surgery compare with LASIK?

If you’re interested in seeing crisp and clear without glasses or contact lenses and LASIK isn’t suitable for your eyes, refractive lens exchange (RLE) may be the right option for you. This procedure is a type of lens replacement surgery that can correct refractive error, giving you crisp and clear vision without prescription eyewear.

Refractive lens exchange is done by removing your eye’s natural lens and replacing it with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) that corrects your refractive error, giving you sharp sight. It is particularly suitable for people with extreme farsightedness or presbyopia, for whom LASIK, PRK, or phakic IOL surgery isn’t typically recommended.

After refractive lens exchange in San Leandro, Concord, and Castro Valley, California, most of our patients can see clearly with a significantly reduced reliance on prescription glasses. They are excited about the new ability to leave their bifocals or reading glasses behind!

Lens replacement surgery isn’t just for cataracts

Cataract surgery involves replacing the cloudy lens caused by cataracts with a transparent intraocular lens. While the cataract surgery procedure is the same as refractive lens exchange, the difference is that RLE is done to replace your clear lens – and not to replace the diseased lens of cataracts. Our eye surgeon at Turner Eye Institute performs lens replacement regularly (especially when LASIK or other refractive surgery isn’t appropriate) to help patients focus clearly without prescription eyewear, even if no cataracts are present.

Types of IOLs used

Intraocular lenses are not one-size-fits-all; the fit is personalized. Your eye surgeon will evaluate your visual needs and eye health to recommend the most effective IOL.

Just like when replacing cataracts, three different kinds of intraocular lenses are available as substitutes for your natural lens. These three types are:

  • Monofocal fixed-focus IOLs – for clear vision at near, distance, and intermediate ranges, but not all three types of vision at once. Monofocal IOLs also include toric lenses to treat astigmatism.
  • Multifocal IOLs – with these, you can benefit from clear vision at multiple distances.
  • Accommodating IOLs – this type of monofocal lens enables you to focus and see clearly at multiple distances, because it shifts its positioning in the eye

Lens replacement surgery to treat presbyopia

If you’re over 40 years old, you’re probably familiar with presbyopia – the vision condition that makes it hard to focus on close objects and read fine print. Typically, people wear reading glasses, bifocals or progressive lenses, monovision contacts, and multifocal contact lenses to correct presbyopia. While LASIK cannot directly address presbyopia – refractive lens exchange can do it successfully! RLE is often the most suitable surgical option for people with presbyopia, and a range of FDA-approved multifocal IOLs is now available, such as Restor by Alcon, ReZoom and Tecnis by Abbott, and the accommodating IOL Crystalens by Bausch & Lomb. These replacement lenses give you the ability to focus at all distances, including reading tiny text up close.

Facts about refractive lens exchange

  • Altogether, this lens replacement surgery takes about 15 minutes, performed on an outpatient basis in our eye clinics in San Leandro, Concord, and Castro Valley, California.
  • Each eye is operated on separately, with surgeries done about a week apart.
  • Numbing eye drops will be administered to provide a pain-free experience.
  • Typically, the recovery period is about a week, and then you’ll be able to return to your normal daily activities, including driving.
  • Most people report vision improvement almost immediately after RLE, however the final results can take up to a few weeks to see.
  • During recovery, possible side effects include blurry vision, seeing glare or halos, and a scratchy sensation in your eyes during the healing process.
  • Usually, people don’t feel the IOL in their eye, and because it’s not worn on the surface of your eye – nobody else can see it either.
  • The risk of vision deterioration or loss of vision correction is minimal over time.

Refractive lens exchange versus LASIK

If you have a severe refractive error or an irregular cornea, you may not be a good candidate for LASIK. In these cases, our eye doctor in San Leandro, Concord, and Castro Valley, California, may recommend lens replacement surgery as the preferred surgical alternative. When it comes to correcting high hyperopia (farsightedness), visual acuity after RLE is generally much sharper than the results of LASIK.

Lens replacement surgery is a more invasive procedure than LASIK, and therefore the risks are slightly higher. Yet, serious complications are rare, and most problems that may develop later can be treated successfully.

Usually, RLE is not the frontline option for people with nearsightedness (myopia), because people with myopia have an increased risk of retinal detachment during the procedure. That’s when LASIK may be a better vision solution.

Also, RLE tends to be costlier than LASIK, and it is not usually covered by vision insurance.

Is lens replacement surgery for you?

Our eye doctors are experienced and knowledgeable about this breakthrough vision correction procedure, and we’re happy to share our knowledge! We have the answers to your questions; book an appointment at one of our advanced eye care centers in San Leandro, Concord, and Castro Valley, California, for more info.

At Turner Eye Institute, we put your family's needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 800-339-2733 or book an appointment online to see one of our San Leandro eye doctors.

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