Refractive lens exchange (RLE), also known as clear lens extraction (CLE) or lens replacement surgery, is a surgical procedure that involves replacing the natural lens of the eye with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL). This procedure is used to correct vision problems such as nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), and astigmatism. It is similar to cataract surgery, which also involves replacing the natural lens of the eye, but is typically performed on people who do not yet have cataracts.
RLE is typically performed on people over the age of 40 who are experiencing presbyopia, which is the age-related loss of the eye's ability to focus on close objects. This is due to the natural lens of the eye becoming less flexible with age, which makes it more difficult to focus on close objects. RLE can also be used to correct vision problems that cannot be corrected with glasses or contact lenses, or to reduce the need for glasses or contact lenses after cataract surgery.
The procedure is usually performed on an outpatient basis and takes about 15 minutes to complete. It is performed under local anesthesia, which means that the eye is numbed with eye drops and the patient is awake during the procedure. The surgeon makes a small incision in the cornea (the clear outer layer of the eye) and removes the natural lens of the eye. The artificial lens is then inserted into the eye through the same incision. The incision is then sealed, usually without any stitches.
After the procedure, the patient will need to wear an eye shield for a day, and then sleep with it for 1 week. For a few days the may experience some eye irritation, dryness, or blurriness. Most people are able to return to their normal activities within a couple days, although it may take a few weeks for the vision to fully stabilize.
Overall, RLE is a safe and effective way to correct vision problems and reduce the need for glasses or contact lenses. The results usually last a lifetime. However, as with any surgical procedure, there are risks involved, including the risk of infection, overcorrection, under-correction, or need for additional surgery. It is important to discuss the potential risks and benefits of the procedure with a qualified eye doctor before deciding whether RLE is right for you.