Refractive Lens Exchange vs. Cataract Surgery

November 28, 2022 | Custom Lens Replacement (CLR)

It is estimated that over half of all Americans will need cataract surgery at some point in their lifetime. Because it is so common for adults to develop cataracts later in life, most people are familiar with cataract surgery.

While a refractive lens exchange and cataract surgery are similar procedures, they do have some differences. In this article, we will talk about what cataract surgery and refractive lens exchange are, how they are similar, and what makes them unique.

43Vision is the first vision correction center specifically designed for people aged 43 and older who desire to lessen or do without the need for reading glasses or bifocals. Our center uses the most cutting-edge technology available to treat presbyopia's effects and prevent our patients from having to deal with cataracts in the future.

To learn more about the custom vision correction procedures we offer at 43Vision, call our office today to schedule your comprehensive eye examination and start your journey to visual freedom.

What are cataracts, and how are they treated?

The clouding of the eye's lens is known as a cataract. Your lens becomes foggy as you age because the proteins in your lens start to break down. Because cataracts on the human eye typically develop very slowly and may not initially impair vision, you might not even be aware that you have one. While cataracts are rarely dangerous, over time, they are likely to impair eyesight and cause blurred vision that cannot be improved with a corrective lens.

Over 90% of people by the age of 65 have cataracts, and 50% of those between the ages of 75 and 85 have some visual impairment as a result. Overusing your eyes does not produce cataracts, and they do not spread from one eye to the other.

Since the human lens is clear, light can readily pass through it. It is 65 percent water and has no blood supply. Although the lens continues to produce new cells throughout our lifetimes, a number of factors interact as we age to cause certain regions of the lens to become hazy, hard, and dense. The cloudy lens is then unable to provide a clear image to the retina for processing before sending it to the brain via the optic nerve, causing blurry vision.

Cataracts may develop with age, be congenital, the result of trauma to the eye, or be linked to another factor, such as a medication or disease. Once cataracts have developed, they can only be treated surgically by being removed and replaced with an artificial lens. Your eye doctor can implant a variety of lens types and powers during surgery, including a multifocal intraocular lens or lenses that treat astigmatism. Your visual acuity will improve, and your need to wear glasses will probably be lessened after surgery but not eliminated.

You and your surgeon will discuss the best type of lens implant and power for you to achieve the visual perception you are hoping for. A cataract cannot be treated with medication. Surgery is often done under local anesthetic as an outpatient procedure. You and your ophthalmologist will talk about the best time to get the cataract removed after it has gotten bad enough to affect your quality of life. Cataract surgery is the most common surgery performed worldwide.

What is refractive lens exchange?

Patients over 40 who are dissatisfied with their reading glasses and vision deterioration may benefit from the vision correction procedure known as RLE (Refractive Lens Exchange), or sometimes as CLR (custom lens replacement). RLE, also known as the Lifestyle Lens, enables patients to resume many of their favorite activities.

The natural lens of the eye is removed during the RLE procedure, and it is replaced with an artificial Intraocular Lens (IOL) to focus and correct your vision. Reducing reliance on glasses is the main goal of an RLE. Before the procedure, your eye will be numbed using anesthetic eye drops. To access the lens, your eye surgeon makes a tiny, less than 3mm-long opening in the eye. The process results in the formation of a capsulorhexis. The lens of the eye is then disassembled and removed using an ultrasound probe. The name of this process is phacoemulsification. A new intraocular lens (IOL) is placed in the eye after these natural lens fragments have been removed. The IOLs are foldable and flexible to fit through the narrow hole. They unfold and assume their position once within the eye. The treatment takes less than 30 minutes, and the IOLs are permanent.

There are a variety of high-end IOLs available to fit your needs and lifestyle. To choose the IOL that is best for you, highly precise measurements are done with cutting-edge equipment. You can use the accommodating IOL to improve your ability to see up close or far away, or you can choose a multifocal IOL to address both viewing distances at once. The majority of RLE patients may no longer need to wear contact lenses or glasses at all.

Are cataract surgery and refractive lens exchange (CLR) the same thing?

Refractive lens exchange, or custom lens replacement, and cataract surgery are essentially the same surgical procedure that involves the implant of a phakic intraocular lens (phakic IOLs), but there are some important differences. The major distinction between the two is that in RLE, the eye's natural lens is not cloudy, and the main goal of the procedure is to lessen a patient's need for glasses. RLE is not used to treat cataracts but can, in fact, prevent their development later in life, as an artificial lens cannot get cataracts.

Many patients choose to have RLE after developing presbyopia that cannot be successfully treated with laser vision correction. Presbyopia is an age-related condition where the natural crystalline lens inside the eye loses its ability to focus on close objects. While both RLE and cataract surgery involve replacing the eye's natural lens with artificial intraocular lenses, the main difference is the reason for having the procedure.

Modern cataract surgery has developed into a refractive surgery with advancements in ophthalmology. The majority of cataract patients want a higher quality of life and the clearest vision possible in addition to the removal of the cataract.

The main distinction between RLE and cataract surgery is that cataract patients are seeking treatment for a visual deficiency that an eyeglass prescription cannot help and, generally speaking, are delighted with any level of improved vision. Patients with RLE typically have good vision with glasses or contact lenses and are striving for clear vision without the need for them.

What are the benefits of lens replacement surgery?

RLE is a technique that is both safe and effective for patients over the age of 40. One of the benefits of RLE, also called custom lens replacement) as opposed to LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis), is that it is a more long-lasting treatment for presbyopia and can address any refractive errors you might have, including astigmatism, hyperopia (far-sightedness), and myopia (nearsightedness). It is also a great vision correction alternative for those who do not qualify for laser eye surgery because their cornea is too thin.

Additionally, you won't need another procedure to treat cataracts in the future. You can achieve independence from glasses or contacts thanks to the implanted lenses, which are permanent and last the rest of your life. Improved focus, better vision, cataract prevention, lessened glare and halos, and an easier time differentiating colors (contrast sensitivity) are among the advantages of RLE.

Clearer vision and improved refraction are the most obvious benefit of cataract eye surgery. However, a patient's quality of life is also greatly improved with cataract surgery. In addition, cataract surgery is a quick procedure with a simple recovery period that results in improved vision while protecting eye health.

43Vision specializes in Custom Lens Replacement, and it is our most recommended vision correction option because it can address so many different vision issues. To learn more and find out if you are a candidate for RLE, schedule your exam with our highly trained and experienced team at 43Vision. Call our 43Vision office at 405-883-4343 or schedule an exam on our website now.

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