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Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE)

Refractive lens exchange surgery or RLE is a new procedure where the eye’s natural lens is replaced by an artificial one. What makes RLE appealing is that it is, for the most part, permanent and can work on the more extreme vision issues.

Who is a Candidate for RLE

The most likely candidates for refractive lens exchange surgery (RLE) are people over the age of 50,who are too near/farsighted for LASIK or are tired of wearing bifocals. RLE is also possible for people in the early stages of cataracts.

One significant difference with RLE vs. cataracts surgery is that RLE is elective surgery and not likely covered by a health insurance plan while cataracts surgery could well be covered. Cost of refractive lens exchange surgery (RLE) is on average $3,000 per eye.

RLE – the Procedure

Unlike LASIK, RLE is done in an ambulatory surgical center and the patient is given a mild sedative. Make sure to have someone there who can drive you home after the procedure.

Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE) is more invasive than LASIK with an incision made in the corner of the eye. This creates an opening for the surgeon to pull, break up, and suction out the old lens. Then the new lens is implanted. Stitches are not needed as the incision will self-seal. The procedure will, generally, take no more than 30 minutes. Vision improves almost immediately with the possibility of blurring for a day or two.

While LASIK patients will many times have both eyes done the same day, Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE) is done with a week or so between eyes to ensure that the first eye heals properly.

Refractive Lens Exchange – Post-Op

Most people are back to their normal routine within a couple days. Some activities like swimming, contact sports and heavy lifting should be restricted for a month or so.

Mild painkillers may be needed for the first day, but pain is usually not a problem.

Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE) Complications

There are risks attached to any surgery. The three common complications associated with RLE are:

As with any surgical procedure, if you are concerned about any post-operative complication, contact your surgeon immediately.

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