Refractive lens exchange, also called lens replacement surgery or clear lens extraction, may be a better option than LASIK, PRK or phakic IOL refractive surgery for people with presbyopia and high hyperopia (farsightedness).
Refractive lens exchange (RLE) replaces your eye's clear natural lens with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) to correct your refractive error and achieve sharper focus, reducing your need for reading glasses or bifocals.
While lens replacement surgery technically does not have FDA approval, some eye surgeons will perform the procedure off label in certain circumstances. This is legal and sometimes is the most effective way to correct particular vision problems.
Refractive lens exchange typically is for people with presbyopia or extreme farsightedness, for whom LASIK, PRK or phakic IOL surgery generally are not suitable. If you have both presbyopia and moderate to severe hyperopia, RLE may be the only viable option for clear vision and minimal reliance on glasses after refractive surgery.
Lens replacement surgery also can correct myopia (nearsightedness), but generally it is not recommended when LASIK, PRK or phakic IOLs are available.
The procedure for refractive lens exchange is virtually identical to cataract surgery. The difference is that in RLE, the lens being replaced is clear, rather than a cloudy lens due to a cataract.
As in cataract surgery, three types of IOLs are available to replace your natural lens, depending on your vision needs and the health of your eyes. They are:
- Monofocal fixed-focus IOLs. Monofocal lenses provide clear vision at distance, intermediate or near ranges — but not all three at once. Toric IOLs to correct astigmatism also are classified as monofocal IOLs.
- Multifocal IOLs. A multifocal lens provides clear vision at multiple distances.
- Accommodating IOLs. An accommodating IOL is a type of monofocal lens that enables focus at multiple distances by shifting its position in the eye.
With intraocular lenses, there is no "one size fits all," and your eye surgeon will recommend an IOL that is most suitable for your individual needs.