What Is Refractive Lens Exchange?

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Refractive Lens Exchange, or RLE, is a vision correction procedure. Unlike in other vision correction procedures, like LASIK, the shape of the eye isn’t changed during RLE.

Instead, your eye’s natural lenses get taken out and replaced with artificial lenses. The artificial lenses, called intraocular lenses or IOLs, are the same used in cataract surgery.

RLE and cataract surgery are almost identical procedures. But you can get RLE even if you don’t need cataract surgery.

Keep reading to learn more about RLE and why you might want to consider it to correct your vision.

Why Do You Need RLE?

There are several advantages that RLE has over other vision correction procedures. It is excellent for patients with presbyopia or hyperopia.

Presbyopia is the stiffening of your natural lens as you age which makes your near vision blurry. Hyperopia is farsightedness. It also makes your close vision blurry while objects in the distance are in focus.

How RLE Works

RLE is a simple, minimally invasive procedure. First, the surface of your eye gets numbed with eye drops, so you do not feel anything.

Then the surgeon makes a small incision in your cornea. The incision allows them direct access to the lens in your eye.

They insert a device through the incision to break apart your natural lens so they can remove it with a gentle suction device. Once your natural lens is out, the surgeon replaces it with the IOL.

And that is it! There’s no need for any stitches to close the incision. It will heal on its own.

There are many different types of IOLs that you can choose to have inserted into your eyes. You can talk with your eye doctor about the appropriate IOL for you.

They will help you select the best IOL option for you based on your vision goals and lifestyle. Some can end your need for glasses, while others may only correct vision at certain distances. You will still need to wear glasses with these IOLs.

RLE vs. Cataract Surgery

RLE is the same as cataract surgery. The only difference is that you undergo cataract surgery because you have cataracts.

For RLE, a patient doesn’t need to have cataracts to have their natural lens replaced. But, because a cataract cannot form on an IOL, patients who get RLE will never need to get cataract surgery.

Both procedures are for patients over the age of forty. Once you are in your forties, you are more likely to develop age-related vision problems like presbyopia and cataracts.

Who is a Candidate for RLE?

RLE is mainly for patients who don’t have cataracts yet but want to fix their presbyopia or hyperopia. However, anyone with a refractive error can choose to get RLE.

But if you have myopia or nearsightedness, LASIK or a LASIK alternative is more effective for you. RLE is the best option to correct presbyopia.

RLE can also correct astigmatism if you have presbyopia or hyperopia and astigmatism. Toric IOLs are special IOLs that can correct astigmatism and up-close vision at the same time.

Many IOLs come in toric models. Your eye doctor will discuss toric IOLs when you select the best IOL for you.

If you have presbyopia or hyperopia, RLE is a great option for vision correction. Schedule an appointment at New England Eye Center in Boston, MA, to determine if RLE is right for you!

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