LASIK Alternatives: What is Refractive Lens Exchange?
If you want to see without contacts or glasses, you may think your only option is laser eye surgery, such as LASIK. While LASIK is an extremely safe and common procedure to correct vision problems, not everyone is a candidate. There are, however, alternatives to LASIK that are just as effective at correcting nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and presbyopia.
One popular alternative to LASIK is Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE). During RLE, the clear lens of your eye is replaced with an artificial lens called an IOL (intraocular lens). The IOL implant improves the natural focus of your eye, which results in sharper, clearer sight.
Can I Get RLE if I Don’t Qualify for LASIK?
There are a few reasons why you may not qualify for LASIK. Your cornea may not be thick enough or your prescription is too high. In these cases, you may still qualify for RLE. Since no corneal tissue is removed during RLE, there is minimal risk if your cornea is too thin for LASIK.
How is RLE Done?
RLE is a simple outpatient procedure, similar to cataract surgery. Lens replacement surgery takes about 10 minutes to perform and starts with a small incision in the eye, to remove the natural lens. Numbing eye drops are used prior to making the incision, so you feel no pain or discomfort.
Then, a small, ultrasonic probe is used to break up the crystalline lens and remove it. This process is called phacoemulsification. The lens can also be removed using laser technology. While both procedures result in the same outcome, laser-assisted lens removal surgery is often preferred, as laser technology results in greater precision and faster recovery time.
Once the IOL is inserted and properly positioned, the surgery is complete. No stitches are needed — your eye is self-healing and the incision will close up on its own. Once your natural lens is replaced with an IOL, you’ll be able to focus on objects with ease.
Is RLE Safe?
Because RLE surgery uses the same technique as cataract surgery, the procedure is extremely safe. Cataract surgery is the most commonly performed surgery in the United States. This means most surgeons who perform the procedure are highly experienced, and the surgical techniques have been determined to be very low risk.
Of course, any surgery, even a minor one, carries some risk. There may be some eye irritation after RLE as well as a chance of infection if you don’t care for your eyes properly after surgery. But for the majority of patients, RLE is safe, effective, and painless. Recovery is quick — most patients are back to their daily routine within a week after surgery.
How Long Will it Last?
An IOL is designed to remain in your eye indefinitely. This means once you have the procedure, you won’t ever need to get a replacement. Not only that, but as you get older, your eyes won’t be able to develop cataracts. Essentially, RLE acts as preventative cataract surgery, so once the procedure is complete you won’t need it done again. Cataracts form due to the natural clouding of the eye’s crystalline lens, but they can’t form inside an artificial lens.
Want to learn more about RLE? Contact Nielsen Eye Center today to schedule an appointment. Our staff of eye care experts can answer your questions on refractive lens exchange at our Massachusetts offices south of Boston, including Quincy, Weymouth, and Norwell.