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RLE Lasik Alternative

RLE Lasik Alternative


LASIK is the most popular vision correction surgery, but not everyone is a good candidate. If you have a severe refractive error or an abnormal cornea, RLE could be a better choice. Learn more about this LASIK alternative and whether you could be a good candidate.

Contact our Rockville, MD, office for an eye exam and RLE consultation today at 301-896-0890. You can also contact us online for more information about our vision services.

Take the Next Step. Request an Appointment or Consultation.

What Is RLE?


RLE, or refractive lens exchange, is a different kind of surgery than LASIK or PRK. Rather than reshaping the cornea, it replaces the lenses of your eyes. This makes it an effective surgery for presbyopia (age-related loss of near vision) and severe hyperopia (farsightedness, or loss of near vision). RLE can also correct myopia (nearsightedness) and astigmatism, but it’s usually not recommended for these corrections when LASIK and PRK are available.

During RLE surgery, the surgeon removes your clear natural lenses and replaces them with artificial intraocular lenses (IOLs), available in several forms based on your vision needs. The procedure, which takes 10 to 15 minutes per eye, is virtually identical to cataract surgery. The difference is the lens is being replaced because of a refractive error, not due to cloudiness. The goal of RLE is to sharpen your vision and reduce your reliance on reading glasses or bifocals.


Young girl covering eyes of elderly grandmother in a library

Wouldn’t you like to set back the clock?

You can with Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE). Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE) is gaining popularity as a surgical option for people age 40 and beyond who want to decrease or eliminate their dependence on glasses or contacts. During RLE, the eye’s natural lens is replaced with an artificial lens to correct vision (nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia) and eliminate the need for cataract surgery in the future.

When you are young, the natural lens acts like the zoom function in a camera, allowing you to focus up close, without the need for reading glasses or bifocals. As you age, the lens progressively becomes dysfunctional resulting in loss of near vision (presbyopia) that requires the use of reading glasses or bifocals. With aging, the lens also progressively becomes hard, yellow and cloudy (cataract). Cataracts block and scatter light reducing visual quality, quantity and color perception.

Your lenses continually age throughout life. This results in the need for reading glasses or bifocals in your 40s and eventually cataract surgery in your 70s or 80s. Lens changes cause progressive deterioration in vision. More and more patients do not want to tolerate the years of progressive decline in their vision as they develop cataracts; they want it permanently fixed now.

With the advancement in technology and the safety of the procedure, patients are now choosing to have their natural lenses replaced at an earlier age. After RLE, cataract surgery will never be needed. The artificial lens will not age which provides visual stability to the lens of the eye. There are several lenses to choose from to best customize to your specific eyes. Options include: Toric Lenses for Astigmatism, Aspheric Lenses, Multi-Focal Lenses, and Symfony Lenses.

Advantages of RLE

  • Correct presbyopia: LASIK and PRK do nothing to correct or prevent age-related vision loss. Only RLE provides this type of vision correction.
  • Eliminate the need for future cataract surgery: IOLs don’t harden, yellow, or cloud up over time. Replacing your natural lenses at an earlier age puts an end to years of progressive vision decline and prevents cataracts from ever developing.
  • Invisible vision correction: Your new intraocular lenses are implanted inside your eye, making them less visible than contact lenses, not to mention reading glasses or bifocals.
  • Permanent results: The effects of RLE are designed to last the rest of your life, with minimal risk of regression (loss of corrected vision) over time.

Disadvantages of RLE

  • More extended recovery period: The initial recovery from RLE takes about a week, whereas LASIK patients can usually return to work and other regular activities the day after surgery. It may also take several weeks for your vision to settle, during which time you may experience blurry vision, halos, glare, or a gritty sensation as your eyes heal.
  • Higher cost: Lens replacement surgery costs significantly more than LASIK. And unlike LASIK, it usually isn’t covered by vision insurance.

Who Is a Good Candidate for RLE?

Meet with your ophthalmologist to discuss your eligibility for RLE. To be a good candidate, you must meet these requirements:

  • Be age 21 or older (the best candidates are over age 40)
  • Have stable vision for six months leading up to surgery
  • Have healthy eyes with no history of eye disease

Refractive lens exchange is gaining popularity among people age 40 and older who want to set back the clock on their eyesight. You should consider RLE if you have not yet developed cataracts and are experiencing any of these visual changes as you age:

  • Difficulty reading without glasses or bifocals
  • Difficulty seeing near objects
  • Difficulty seeing while driving, especially at night
  • Increasing severity of farsightedness

What to Expect on the Day of the Procedure


Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE) is an outpatient experience. It is done one eye at a time and usually takes 10-15 minutes to complete. Topical or local anesthesia is used with a mild sedative to prepare you for surgery. Patients may note a pressure sensation and a “light show” during the procedure. The natural lens is broken up by ultrasound into minute particles and removed from the eye. Most of the time, no sutures are needed as the incision is small and usually self-seals.

Post-Operative Care and Recovery


There are minimal restrictions, even immediately after surgery. You will be using antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eye drops for a few weeks to aid in the healing process. Standard post-op visits are 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 3 months and 1 year. Patients are required to have a driver take them home after surgery and drive them to their one day post-op visit. Patients can usually return to work and normal activities after the first post-op visit.

Schedule Your RLE Consultation at Visionary Eye Doctors

Refractive Lens Exchange is a lifestyle choice that brings your favorite activities into focus. During your consultation, our surgeon will assess if RLE is the best procedure for you. We’ll also recommend the correct type of IOL based on your vision needs and eye health.

To request a free RLE consultation, please contact us online or call 301-896-0890 today. We have three offices in the DC area to better serve you.



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