Refractive Lens Exchange is a vision correction procedure that is intended for people aged 40 or older and whom have started to develop presbyopia (need for reading glasses or bifocals). The purpose of the procedure is to reduce the need for glasses and contact lenses, even after presbyopia has started. Having RLE also means that you will not need cataract surgery in the future, as the lens is removed as part of the procedure. RLE is an outpatient procedure which means you will be able to go home the day of your eye surgery. The risks associated with RLE surgery are low and overall patient satisfaction is high, as most patients report having the vision they have desired within days post-operation.
Refractive Lens Exchange eye surgery is quick, and relatively painless as well. The surgery itself takes 10-15 minutes for each eye, often performed two weeks apart, but in many cases may be done at the same day. During the procedure your surgeon will remove the natural lens of your eye and replace it with an acrylic Intraocular Lens Implant (IOL). There are multiple IOLs which serve various vision correction needs. You and your surgeon will discuss your vision goals and decide which IOL is the best choice for you. There are monofocal IOLs, toric IOLs, extended depth of focus (EDOF) IOLs such as the Vivity IOL, and trifocal IOLs such as the PanOptix IOL. After your procedure you may notice some minor side effects, such as glare and halos, depending on the IOL you ultimately choose, and some patients still may require reading glasses for very fine print.
Is this the same as LASIK? No, LASIK is a laser procedure that reshapes the front of the eye to correct your vision. But after age 40, LASIK cannot address presbyopia unless a monovision correction is done (one distance, one near). If you've been told you aren't a candidate for LASIK due to thin corneas or dry eyes, then RLE might be the best option for you to correct your vision, particularly if you are 40 or older. In addition, patients have a much lower rate of dry eye following RLE compared to LASIK, as the incisions are much smaller with RLE.
Can I have RLE if I'm under 40? No, you typically should not have RLE if you are under 40 years old and have not yet developed presbyopia. If you are interested in correcting your vision but are not a candidate for LASIK, then you may want to consider another lens-based procedure called the Visian ICL. This effective LASIK alternative leaves your natural lens in place while a thin, powerful collagen polymer lens is placed inside the eye to correct your vision. Read more about the Visian ICL here.