Refractive Lens Exchange, or RLE, is a surgical procedure much like cataract surgery in which the natural lens of the eye is removed and replaced with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL), despite the fact that a cataract is not present. The majority of those who elect this procedure are people 45 and older who have presbyopia (age-related farsightedness), are extremely farsighted, or who may not be good candidates for other corrective procedures, such as LASIK® or PRK.
How does Refractive Lens Exchange surgery work?
RLE is essentially identical to cataract surgery in that the natural lens of the eye is surgically removed and replaced with an IOL. Before the procedure, you will be given a light sedative to ensure that you are relaxed and comfortable. Then, your surgeon will apply numbing drops to minimize any discomfort. If both eyes need treatment, they won’t be treated on the same day. Your surgeon will usually schedule each eye one to two weeks apart.
During the procedure, your doctor creates a very small opening in the cornea, typically less than 3mm in length to reach the natural lens. Ultrasound energy is then used to gently break up and remove the lens from the eye in a process called phacoemulsification. Once the natural lens fragments are removed, the surgeon will then insert a flexible IOL, which will unfold under the cornea and become a permanent part of your eye. The whole procedure typically takes less than 30 minutes. After a brief recovery time, a friend or family member can drive you home.
How does RLE differ from cataract surgery?
The main difference between RLE and cataract surgery is that RLE does not involve the presence of a cataract. The primary objective of the surgery is to reduce a patient’s dependence on glasses, especially those with severe myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness).
Who is a good candidate for Refractive Lens Exchange?
Many experts agree the best candidates for RLE are people with moderate to severe farsightedness, especially who are over 45 and have presbyopia. Therefore, the most suitable candidates for RLE are often bifocal or multifocal wearers 45 and older. RLE might also be an option for younger people with high prescriptions or in cases where the patient is not a candidate for laser vision correction. The doctors and staff at Drs. Campbell, Cunningham, Taylor & Haun will discuss all your options and help you determine if RLE is the best treatment option for you.
What are the benefits of RLE surgery?
For patients who are not good candidates for laser vision correction, RLE may provide a viable option and offer benefits including:
- Reducing or possibly eliminating dependence on corrective lenses
- Quick recovery
- Unaltered corneal thickness (unlike with laser vision correction)
- Eliminating the need for cataract surgery in the future
- Possibly correcting presbyopia (age-related farsightedness)
What is the recovery from RLE surgery like?
You will need to arrange a ride home after your procedure as your vision may be blurry until the eyedrop medication used during surgery wears off. In most cases, patients notice significant vision improvement the next day. However, your vision will likely fluctuate over the first few weeks following RLE surgery as the eyes completely heal. You may experience some mild discomfort or a gritty sensation for a few days after your procedure, and your doctor will likely prescribe anti-inflammatory drops for you to take for a few weeks. Most people resume their normal activities (including driving) within about a week of their RLE surgery. Your doctor will go over everything you can expect at your consultation.
What’s my next step to RLE in East Tennessee?
Drs. Campbell, Cunningham, Taylor & Haun are experienced eye care professionals who offer the most recent advancements in replacement lens technology in East Tennessee. If you’d like to find out if RLE may be a good treatment option, we invite you to schedule an appointment by calling (865) 584-0905. We have convenient offices in Knoxville, Farragut, Hardin Valley, Fountain City, Maryville, Oak Ridge, Sevierville, Powell, and Newport to serve you.