Refractive lens exchange is exactly what it sounds like. It is a procedure that involves replacing your eye’s natural lens with an intraocular lens to correct refractive error and improve your vision problem.
Refractive lens exchange is considered an alternative to both LASIK surgery and cataract surgery. It is often chosen when LASIK surgery and other vision correction procedures are not suitable for patients due to certain factors or when the patient has a higher refractive error and age-related changes in the lens.
Let’s discuss when RLE is used as an alternative to LASIK surgery and its procedure, benefits, and recovery.
RLE as an Alternative to LASIK and Cataract Surgery
LASIK is a refractive eye surgery in which a laser is used to change the shape of the outermost layer of the eye to correct vision problems like farsightedness, nearsightedness, and astigmatism. However, it is not recommended if an individual has an eye disease called keratoconus, which causes the cornea of the eye to thin and bulge, has extreme nearsightedness and farsightedness, and has age-related eye changes that cause vision to be less clear. In such cases, refractive lens exchange is used as an alternative to laser surgery.
Cataract surgery, on the other hand, is similar to reflective lens exchange as both procedures involve replacing the natural eye lenses with an artificial intraocular lens. Refractive lens exchange is used as an alternative when a person has a significant refractive error or high levels of astigmatism along with cataracts.
Refractive lens exchange surgery also prevents age-related cataracts from developing later in life, as an artificial intraocular lens cannot cause cataracts.
Refractive Lens Exchange Procedure
Refractive lens exchange is a simple procedure, taking approximately 15 to 30 minutes. To perform the procedure, your ophthalmologist will give you eye drops to numb the surface of the eye. The ophthalmologist will use a laser or blade to make a small incision in your eye at the place where the cornea of the eye meets with the whites of the eye (sclera).
Next, your eye surgeon will use a pen-shaped tool to break up the natural lens into small pieces, liquefy the pieces, and remove them from the eye. Once your natural lens is out of your eye, your ophthalmologist will insert your new intraocular lens through the same incision and position it within your lens capsule – a thin membrane that holds the lens in place. Since the incision made to remove and insert the lens is very small, there is no need for stitches, and the incision will seal shut on its own.
Lastly, your ophthalmologist will tape a shield over your eye to protect it. You will be monitored for 30 minutes, and then you can go home. Following the surgery, you may experience bloody vision, double vision, watery eyes, bloody eyes, or gritty feelings in your eyes.
Benefits and Risks of Refractive Lens Exchange Procedure
Like any other surgical procedure, refractive lens exchange also has some benefits and risks. The main benefits of RLE are as follows.
- It can treat all types of refractive errors.
- Four out of five people do not need contact lenses or glasses after RLE.
- RLE prevents cataract from developing later in life as cataract only forms in natural lenses, not intraocular lenses.
The risks or complications of refractive lens exchange are higher in people with extreme nearsightedness or under age 50. Some possible complications of RLE include retinal detachment, posterior capsular rupture, vision loss, and posterior capsular opacification.
Recovery Time Following Refractive Lens Exchange
Following a refractive lens exchange procedure, it takes approximately 8 weeks for the eye to heal fully. However, you may have to wait to drive, swim, exercise, and return to work until your ophthalmologist allows you. For quick healing, be sure to use the eye drops regularly that your ophthalmologist prescribes.
Refractive Lens Exchange in Miramar, FL
If you think you might be a candidate for the refractive lens exchange surgery and are looking for a highly trained ophthalmologist in and around Miramar, FL, look no further than our board-certified ophthalmologist, Dr. Kenneth Karp. Our highly trained and compassionate ophthalmologist has years of experience in performing vision contraction procedures such as refractive lens exchange, LASIK surgery, and PKR. Before recommending a refractive lens exchange or any other procedure, our ophthalmologist will do a thorough assessment to determine if you are the right candidate for the particular procedure.