Refractive Lens Exchange

There are many ways and options to correct your vision in the modern world. While glasses and contacts are the most common, and LASIK is gaining in popularity, there is also a procedure called refractive lens exchange (RLE) that you might want to consider.

RLE is an alternative surgical procedure to LASIK designed to treat patients with presbyopia (age-related blurry near vision), and it can be a viable option for individuals who are not eligible for LASIK. Sometimes RLE is referred to as refractive lensectomy, clear lens extraction, or simply lens replacement surgery.

So How Does It Work?

The goal of refractive lens exchange is to replace the natural lens of your eye with something called an “artificial intraocular lens.”

These lenses come in three categories:

  • Monofocal IOLs allow you to see clearly and focus in three distinct distances, but does not allow for in between, or a combination.
  • Multifocal IOLs function much the same as monofocal, but with more available distances.
  • Accommodating IOLs actually adjust inside the eye as your eyes change focus.

There are benefits and drawbacks to each including price and effectiveness, but if you are interested in learning more about which IOL suits you best, contact us to find out more.

The Operation

The refractive lens exchange procedure is fast, straightforward, painless, and very effective. The entire process takes between 15 – 20 minutes, and you will be in driving shape within a week (depending on how well you recover). Each eye needs to be done separately, with a week in between.


Refractive lens exchange and LASIK are both safe and effective, but each has distinct advantages and disadvantages. For example, RLE is typically reserved for patients with farsightedness, and while it can be used for nearsighted patients, it is more of a last resort. In general, LASIK is more effective, has a lower procedure and recovery time, and is preferred by doctors and patients alike. However, LASIK is not right for people who have abnormal corneas or an extreme refractive error. In those severe cases, RLE is the better option.