Refractive Lens Exchange: An Alternative to LASIK - Art of Optiks
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Understanding Refractive Lens Exchange: An Alternative to LASIK

People around the world suffer from mild to severe vision impairment like clouded vision, farsightedness, myopia, and nearsightedness. Non-surgical solutions like contacts and glasses are available to correct these common vision impairments. However, surgical solutions have also been developed and refined over time to help treat common refractive errors.

Vision impairment can be corrected with two leading surgical treatments, refractive lens exchange (RLE) and laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK). The eye care team at Art of Optiks has the knowledge and expertise to determine whether your vision impairment can be corrected in a non-surgical or surgical manner by completing a thorough consultation before referring you to a specialist.

What Is Refractive Lens Exchange?

The natural lens of the eye is replaced with an artificial intraocular lens to achieve clearer vision. Refractive lens exchange is almost identical to cataract surgery and helps improve eyesight for people suffering from hyperopia or farsightedness. The only difference between refractive lens exchange and cataract surgery is that refractive lens exchange replaces a healthy lens rather than a cloudy lens caused by a cataract.

Patients who experience a change in their vision as they age look to a refractive lens exchange procedure. Those who suffer from presbyopia, and moderate to severe hyperopia have found this surgery to be very effective. RLE can also be used to correct myopia or nearsightedness. However, it’s usually not recommended if LASIK, intraocular lens (IOL), or Photo-Refractive Keratectomy (PRK) are available.

The procedure usually takes about 15 minutes and is typically performed on an outpatient basis. Each eye is completed individually and within a week apart. Numbing anesthetic drops are used to limit discomfort during the procedure. Initial recovery takes about a week, after which everyday activities can be resumed.


Unlike LASIK, refractive lens exchange is more invasive and takes more time to heal. With refractive lens exchange, only one eye can be treated at a time, whereas with LASIK both eyes can be treated on the same day. The ability to focus on near objects is lost when the natural lens is removed, meaning reading glasses may be required following the procedure. Other risks include:

  • Infections
  • Bleeding
  • Mispositioned lens
  • Increased intraocular pressure
  • Vision loss
  • Retinal detachments

What Is LASIK?

LASIK is a laser-based procedure that reshapes the cornea or clear dome of the eye to correct common refractive errors like:

  • Farsightedness
  • Nearsightedness
  • Astigmatism

An effective LASIK surgery reduces and eliminates the reliance on contact lenses and glasses. A special type of cutting laser is used to change the cornea’s dome-shaped clear tissue to improve vision.

A healthy cornea naturally refracts light onto the retina. However, with nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism, the light refracts incorrectly, resulting in blurred vision. Contact lenses and glasses may correct the vision, but the reshaping of the cornea provides long-term results.

Initially, a flap is created on the surface of the cornea. The flap is then lifted and a microscopic amount of tissue is removed by a laser. Pre-operative measurements are used to program the laser allowing for a specific amount of tissue to be removed that is unique to the patient’s needs.

The flap is then realigned over the treated area to facilitate healing. The procedure is painless, only takes a few minutes, and both eyes can be treated on the same day.


LASIK involves the removal of the corneal tissue, meaning there is a limit to how much tissue can be safely removed. LASIK carries a number of risks including:

  • Undercorrection
  • Overcorrection
  • Flap problems
  • Vision loss
  • Dry eyes

Patients who have severe refractive errors, may not be ideal candidates for LASIK. If so, refractive lens exchange may be the best option.

Start Your Journey Toward Better Vision Today

Refractive lens exchange and LASIK are both effective when completed correctly. Regardless of the treatment option you choose, the success of each procedure depends on factors only a specialist can help you determine. At Art of Optiks, we have a proven track record backed by experience in providing the best eye care solutions for our clients. Contact us today to schedule your LASIK consultation.

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