Most vision correction procedures are designed to eliminate the need for contacts and glasses. Procedures like LASIK and PRK alter the shape of your cornea to correct refractive errors like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.
But many adults over 40 who require glasses have another eye condition that traditional laser eye procedures can’t correct: presbyopia. If you’re familiar with the need for reading glasses or holding things further away from you, then you have an understanding of this age-related eye condition.
Presbyopia makes it more challenging to focus on things up close. Unlike refractive errors, presbyopia isn’t caused by the shape of the cornea but rather because the eye’s natural lens becomes less flexible with age.
The good news? Here at New England Eye Center, we offer a vision correction procedure that can correct presbyopia—refractive lens exchange (RLE).
RLE can help patients with presbyopia see more clearly. It may also reduce the need for reading glasses while reducing your dependence on other visual aids. The extent to which it does this varies. Keep reading to learn more about RLE, how it works, and if it may be right for you!
How Refractive Lens Exchange Works
Refractive lens exchange is an outpatient procedure, meaning you can go home the same day. During the vision correction procedure, your surgeon will create a small incision in your eye.
After the incision, they’ll use an instrument to break up and remove the eye’s natural lens. Once removed, an artificial lens, called an intraocular lens (IOL), is inserted to take its place.
RLE is designed primarily to treat presbyopia. However, it can also treat other refractive errors like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism with a toric lens.
If you don’t have presbyopia, LASIK or another vision correction procedure is a much more efficient way of correcting your refractive errors. RLE is best for patients over the age of 40 who have presbyopia.
Cataract Surgery vs. Refractive Lens Exchange
If it sounds like there are similarities between cataract surgery and refractive lens exchange, it’s because the two procedures are almost identical. The only difference is that you don’t need cataracts to have RLE.
Cataracts form in the eye’s natural lens, and cataract surgery removes them by removing the natural lens, along with the cataract, and replacing the lens with it an IOL. RLE removes the natural lens, but patients do not need cataracts when they have refractive lens exchange.
There are several benefits to getting RLE; one is that you’ll never have to worry about getting cataracts. Cataracts only form in your eye’s natural lens and cannot develop in an IOL.
When you get refractive lens exchange, you can look forward to years of crisp, clear vision that cataracts will never inhibit. That’s a small price to pay for visual improvement!
IOLs and Glasses
There are several kinds of IOLs. Many IOLs correct presbyopia, but that doesn’t mean that all intraocular lenses are created equally.
Budget-conscious patients can opt for a monofocal IOL, the standard but basic intraocular lens. It’s the only IOL that insurance plans cover.
However, you will need to use glasses if you choose a monofocal lens. A monofocal IOL can only correct your vision at one distance.
It’s a uniform lens, allowing you to see up close or at a distance. Some patients choose monovision, where they get one lens for seeing up close put in one eye and another lens positioned in the other for seeing at a distance.
Patients can see well enough at these distances but need reading glasses to compensate for intermediate vision. Monofocal IOLs may reduce your need for glasses, but even patients who get monovision often require reading glasses to see up close.
But there are also premium IOLs, which come in more varieties. Most premium IOLs reduce or even eliminate the need for glasses.
No IOL can guarantee you won’t ever need to wear glasses, but many significantly reduce your need for them. If you want the best chance to no longer rely on glasses for most everyday tasks, a premium IOL is the way to go.
As there are many IOLs available, the same is also true with premium IOLs. Talk to your eye doctor about what options they offer.
Based on your visual needs, lifestyle goals, and desires after refractive lens exchange, they can recommend the best IOL. Here are some of the premium IOLs available at New England Eye Center:
A multifocal lens has alternating rings that switch between two refractive powers: one for seeing up close and one for seeing far away. Your eye automatically looks through the section of the lens that helps you see what you’re looking at best.
This kind of IOL can help you see very well up close, reducing your need for reading glasses. But it doesn’t offer a broad range of vision, so you may still have to wear regular glasses or contacts.
A trifocal lens is like a multifocal IOL, but instead of alternating between two refractive powers, it alternates between three. One is for seeing up close, another is for seeing far away, and a third is for seeing things at a middle distance.
Having three powers to alternate between gives you a broader range of vision and often reduces and even eliminates the need for visual aids.
Toric lenses are designed to correct astigmatism along with presbyopia. Multifocal lenses and other premium lenses may come in a toric model, giving you the benefits of that lens while also correcting your astigmatism.
Toric lenses usually only correct mild astigmatism, so they won’t fully correct your vision if you have severe astigmatism. But if you want to reduce your need for reading glasses and glasses that correct your existing astigmatism, a toric lens might be the best option for you.
Are you ready to learn more about RLE and what IOL options we have available? Schedule an appointment today for a consultation at New England Eye Center in Boston, MA!