Refractive Surgery To Replace Your Eye's Lens
Not all forms of refractive surgery involve reshaping the cornea, though LASIK, LASEK, IntraLase and related procedures are often thought of as the mainstays of refractive surgery. Surgeons can now perform a procedure known as refractive lens exchange or RLE. During this surgery, the doctor will replace your eye's natural lens with a manufactured lens.
The goal of RLE surgery is like LASIK... to help the patient achieve much better vision than they would have without surgery. The down side? Right now the U.S. FDA has not approved RLE technology to correct vision specifically.
Even so, many surgeons are performing the procedure and referring to it as "off-label." It's much like when a doctor prescribes a drug for an off-label purpose. It is not an illegal practice and, for many people who are not good candidates for LASIK, it is a sensible option.
RLE Ideal For Older Patients
Among the largest population of people receiving RLE surgery are those in their mid to late 40s and 50s and the elderly. Most people develop cataracts as they get older,which can impact the eye's lens, reducing vision. Cataract removal surgery may help alleviate this problem, but in many cases, patients still need some type of surgery to replace their lens.
The benefit of having refractive lens exchange surgery is that it can be performed before cataracts become bad enough to require traditional surgery. By placing artificial lenses in the eye, most patients can see well without requiring visual correction from eyeglasses or contacts.
The down side is Medicare and other insurances are often willing to pay for cataract removal surgery, but not for RLE. Typically the costs associated with RLE are similar to more advanced LASIK procedures, from $2,000 on up for each eye.
RLE is also a good choice for people that need bifocal or multifocal intraocular lenses. To decide whether you are a good candidate, be sure to talk with your eye care professional.
RLE For Farsighted People
RLE is also a good choice for patients that have severe farsightedness with greater than +6.00 correction. Typically LASIK surgery is not an option for candidates with farsightedness this severe. The use of RLE lenses in these patients would correct distance vision, but it is possible patients would still need to use reading glasses on occasion.
If you are considering RLE, it is important you talk with you doctor about the pros and cons of surgery. There are some risks, as is always the case with any eye surgery. Among the more serious risks associated with RLE is retinal detachment, where the retina detaches from the eye. Other risks include infection, dry eye or other discomfort. Fortunately these other risks are minimal and can be easily managed and relieved through proper eye care and rest.
Are you considering refractive surgery to fix your eye lens? Tell us more about your thoughts in the comment box.
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