Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE)
If you are looking for options to help you reduce your reliance on glasses or contact lenses to see clearly at a range of distances, refractive lens exchange (RLE) surgery may be an ideal solution. This advanced treatment can serve as an effective alternative to LASIK and other laser vision correction procedures for patients who may not be candidates for those options. RLE can be advantageous for patients with severe visual refractive errors, as well as those who have been diagnosed with presbyopia (age-related loss of near vision). This procedure is common among individuals aged 45 and over and has shown to be an excellent way for patients to address a number of debilitating vision problems.
What are the benefits of RLE?
RLE involves the replacement of the eye’s natural lens with an advanced technology artificial lens. The potential benefits of RLE include:
- Improvement of refractive errors such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism
- Often serves as a viable alternative to laser vision correction
- Reduction or elimination of the need for corrective eyewear
- The risk of developing a cataract in the future is eliminated
For patients over the age of 45 who are starting to rely on reading glasses to see fine print due to presbyopia, but who also want to improve distance vision and/or astigmatism, refractive lens exchange may be the best vision correction surgical option. RLE surgery can dramatically improve their vision with many of the same benefits as LASIK.
What does RLE surgery involve?
RLE is an outpatient procedure that is identical to cataract surgery, but performed before a patient develops cataracts, with the goal of greatly reducing a patient’s need for corrective eyewear after surgery. During RLE surgery, the eye’s natural focusing lens is removed and replaced with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL). By removing the natural lens of the eye during RLE surgery, you are eliminating the possibility of developing a cataract later on in life.
During your initial consultation, one of our experienced eye surgeons will evaluate your eyes and determine if you are a good candidate for RLE. If so, our doctor will talk with you about some of the best intraocular lens implant (IOL) options for your unique needs. We offer a comprehensive range of IOLs here at The Eye Institute of Utah, including multifocal IOLs (TECNIS®, ReSTOR® and Symfony® IOLs) that can simultaneously correct near, far, and intermediate vision. We also offer toric IOLs that can address astigmatism and correct vision at one distance or multiple distances.
Only one eye will be treated at a time, but typically within one week of each other. A topical anesthetic will be applied to the eye via eyedrops, and you will be offered an optional oral sedative such as valium. Your surgeon will create a very tiny incision, remove the eye’s natural lens, and replace it with the IOL. Most patients experience a slight sensation of pressure during treatment, but they do not typically report feelings of excessive pain. The incision required for RLE is usually so small that sutures are not necessary – it should heal on its own.
What can I expect during the recovery process?
Most patients experience a minimal recovery period after RLE procedures. Prescription eyedrops will be prescribed for optimal healing, and follow-up visits will be scheduled to monitor your progress. In most cases, patients are able to resume work and other daily activities after about one day.
If you would like to learn more about refractive lens exchange procedures, please contact us today. We will be happy to answer your questions or assist you with scheduling a consultation here at our practice.