What is Lens Replacement Surgery?
Also known as: Clear Lens Exchange, Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE), Clarivu™ and NuVu™
Lens Replacement Surgery is the term given to the medical procedures used to correct vision by replacing the eye’s natural lens with an artificial lens.
This type of procedure is used to correct vision when laser refractive eye surgery (such as LASIK, LASEK or PRK) is unsuitable due to high hyperopia (farsightedness), presbyopia or very thin corneas.
Lens Replacement Surgery is similar to cataract surgery, because the lens inside the eye is replaced with a synthetic lens, making it more suitable for older patients. There is no need to alter the shape of the eye (as with laser eye surgery) and is a very safe procedure, with a quick recovery time.
The Types of Lens Surgery
Refractive Lens Exchange
In RLE the eye’s natural lens is removed through a small incision and replaced by an artificial lens that is designed to remain permanently. This artificial lens corrects vision permanently.
ICL Surgery (Phakic IOL)
In ICL surgery an artificial lens is placed in between the natural lens and the iris (the coloured part of the eye). The lens corrects vision in the same way as contact lenses but offers a permanent solution without removing the eye’s natural lens.
In cataract surgery the eye’s natural lens is cloudy which prevents clear vision. The cloudy lens is removed and replaced with a clear artificial lens. Cataract surgery differs from RLE slightly, as the natural lens removed in RLE does not necessarily suffer from cataracts.
Who Is Eligible for Lens Replacement Surgery?
Lens surgery is offered to people with:
- High Hyperopia (extreme farsightedness)
- Presbyopia (An age related condition which makes reading at close range difficult)
- Those with both hyperopia and presbyopia
- Thin corneas where lasik or lasek would be unsafe
The above conditions usually relate to those over 45 years old. If you are younger and do not have the above conditions, you would be recommended laser refractive eye surgery such as LASIK, LASEK or PRK.
Lens replacement surgery can also treat myopia (near-sightedness) but as the visual results are better and more reliable with LASIK and LASEK they will be recommended over RLE.
What Are the Benefits of Lens Replacement Surgery?
Unlike a younger person, once you are over 40, your eye muscles will have relaxed, so replacing your natural lenses means you will not need to wear glasses or contact lenses. There are several kinds of lenses that can be used in lens replacement surgery.
Monocular lenses have a single focus, similar to reading glasses, but if you have particular vision problems, you can also have multifocal lenses (so you can focus clearly on objects near to you as well as further away), or prescription lenses. Unlike laser eye surgery, there is no limit on the prescription range, and even very complex requirements can be met.
Another benefit is that there is no risk of developing cataracts in later life due to the fact that your natural lens has been replaced with a synthetic one.
- No need for glasses or contact lenses in the future
- No Limit on prescription range
- No risk of developing cataracts
Types of Intraocular lens (IOL)
A monofocal lens is designed with a fixed focus for one distance and is usually chosen for cataract surgery.
Each lens is divided into zones of differing power for both long and short distances. A problem with the lens can be that the intermediate vision can be poor.
With multifocal lens, patients may experience a slight ‘jump’ in focus as they switch between looking at objects at different distances.
Accommodating lenses are attached to the eye’s muscles allowing it to move backwards and forwards, just as the natural lens does.
They are slightly more complicated to insert and this means there can be a longer healing period and swelling after the procedure.
Multifocal Toric IOLs
Toric lenses are specifically designed to treat astigmatism (blurred vision due to an irregularly shaped cornea). These lenses not only correct the blurry vision but also offer the benefits of multifocal lenses, helping you to focus at multiple distances.
Toric lenses may not be suitable for people with irregular astigmatism, as the changing nature of the condition in these cases can make them difficult to implant accurately.
Treatment usually takes around 15 minutes per and is performed about a week apart.
Eye drops are administered to the eye undergoing and a mild sedative may be given to make sure no pain is felt during the treatment.
After making a tiny incision to the edge of the cornea the surgeon gently breaks up the old lens and removes it using ultrasonic assistance. The surgeon then inserts the new artificial lens.
The surgery is usually completed without stitches since the tiny incision heals by itself.
Is There Any Difference Between RLE and Cataract Surgery?
Lens Replacement Surgery Recovery Time
Recovery times are considerably quick and you can expect to see improvement with your vision within two days of surgery. It is advisable to take a week off work after each procedure.
Try not touch your eyes for any reason for the first month and avoid getting sweat, dust, or smoke in your eyes.
Strenuous activity, sneezing and driving should be avoided immediately after surgery. It is also better to avoid swimming for one to two weeks. Showering or bathing, computer work and light television watching will be fine immediately after surgery.
If you’re undertaking refractive lens exchange and use glasses for viewing distances, you may have difficulty obtaining balanced vision in spectacles in the week between having the first and second eye operated on. To avoid issues sight you will be asked to wear a contact lens in the un-operated eye. Once the second eye is operated on, there is normally a swift return to balanced vision.
Most patients experience some temporary blurring for a few days and can also expect an increased sensitivity to light for a few weeks.
You may experience halos or rings around lights and glare at night. These side effects can make it difficult to see while driving at night or to complete tasks in a room with low lighting. For this reason, it is worth waiting until your vision has fully stabilised before driving.
For the best recovery, you should carefully follow all instructions given to you by the clinic after surgery. These will be provided in a hand out which you can take home with you.
As RLE is more invasive than laser eye surgery operations, there is a greater degree of risk. However, the chances of a complication occurring are still very low with reports indicating that the surgery has a 99.5% success rate.
If you begin seeing floaters; flashes of light or any severe deteriorations in vision, report these to your clinic immediately to ensure that you are not suffering from any serious complications. These can include:
- Posterior Capsule Opacification (PCO) – This can develop in the months and years following surgery and is the most common of the complications. It occurs when part of the lens capsule (or the “pocket” that the lens sits inside) thickens, which can cause cloudy vision. While it may seem that the cataract is returning, it is actually a skin or membrane growing over the back of the artificial lens. The corrective operation to ‘de-cloud’ the lens is considerably simple and non-invasive.
- Retinal Detachment – This is a very rare complication (less than 1% of all procedures undertaken) that occurs when the retina becomes detached from its supporting tissue which leads to a temporary loss in vision. Even if detachment occurs, it can usually be effectively repaired.
How Much Does Lens Replacement Surgery Cost?
The price for RLE surgery will be between £2000 and £4000 and will vary based on a number of considerations.
|Phakic IOL||From £2295 per eye|
|Multifocal RLE / Cataract||From £2095 per eye|
|Monofocal RLE / Cataract||From £1795 per eye|
The more the functionality and specialism of the lens, the more you’re likely to pay. Remember, if you choose monofocal lens, you are likely to need glasses (if you required them before the operation).
Monofocal implants are between £2500 and £3000, multifocal and toric lens are approximately £3500.
Is Finance Available?
To help you get the surgery you want, many clinics now offer interest-free payment plans and alternative finance options over the course of 12, 24 and 48 months. Some do not even require a deposit to begin your instalment plans.
|Treatment||Deposit||10 Months 0% APR||25 Months 11.5% APR||36 Months 11.5 APR||48 Months 11.5% APR|
|Phakic IOL||£500||£179.50 per month||£83.61 per month||£58.71 per month||£46.34 per month|
|Multifocal RLE / Cataract||£500||£1595 per month||£159.50 per month||£74.29 per month||£41.17 per month|
|Monofocal RLE / Cataract||£500||£129.50 per month||£60.32 per month||£42.36 per month||£33.43 per month|
You can find out more on the different options available to you by filling in a few details and speaking to one of our advisors.
What’s the difference between ICL and IOL?
ICLs are often referred to as ‘phakic IOLs’ (intraocular lenses). The term ‘phakic’ refers to an eye with the natural lens still in place. The main difference between ICLs and other non-phakic IOLs is the fact that an ICL works in conjunction with the eye’s natural lens and an IOL entirely replaces this lens.
Can I still get cataracts after RLE surgery?
A cataract is the clouding of the natural lens of your eye. Since RLE surgery removes that clear lens and replaces it with an artificial one, you will never get a cataract.
Lens Replacement surgery is a safe, effective and useful procedure for those who cannot have laser eye surgery. You can read our clinic and surgeon reviews to find out how others who sought Lens Implant surgery felt about their treatment. We advise also you seek an experienced ophthalmic surgeon to discuss your options.