What Is Refractive Lens Exchange? - Boston Laser Blog

What Is Refractive Lens Exchange?

Patients with eyesight problems have a variety of options when it comes to corrective procedures. Corrective vision surgery helps to give patients the ability to see clearly with the aid of glasses or contacts. The most popular methods of vision correction are LASIK and PRK surgeries. However, there is a third option that helps many patients to achieve clear eyes when they are not candidates for other vision correction procedures. This is Refractive lens exchange.

Also called lens replacement surgery or clear lens extraction, refractive lens exchange may be a better option for patients with presbyopia or high hyperopia (farsightedness). During the procedure, your Boston Laser or Boston Eye Group ophthalmologist will replace your eye’s natural lens with an artificial intraocular lens in order to correct a refractive error and attain sharper focus. This procedure is similar to cataract surgery, but in cataracts, a natural lens that has become cloudy is being exchanged whereas this surgery a clear natural lens is being exchanged. Thee are three types of Intraocular Lenses (IOLs) used for this procedure. The lens choice is dependent on your vision needs and the health of the eyes. The choices are:

  • Monofocal Fixed-Focus: These lenses provide clear vision at distance, intermediate, or near ranges. However, not all at once.
  • Multifocal IOLS: This lens provides clear vision at multiple distances.
  • Accommodating IOLS: This type of monofocal lens enables focus at multiples distances b shifting its position in the eye.

The refractive lens exchange procedure is done quickly, only taking about 15 minutes and is performed as an outpatient surgery. Some numbing drops will be used so that there is no discomfort. The recovery takes about a week in total, at this time you can return to normal activities.

Who is a Candidate for Refractive Lens Exchange?

People who suffer from presbyopia or hyperopia are not typically good candidates for LASIK or PRK. With a refractive lens exchange, you can still get a clear vision even with these eye conditions. Most candidates for refractive lens exchange are 45 years or older. Even if you suffer from nearsightedness, you can get a refractive lens exchange. The best way to know if you are a candidate for this vision surgery is by speaking with one of our ophthalmologists at our Boston office.


Presbyopia is a naturally occurring age-related eye condition that affects almost everyone. This condition is where your natural eye lens becomes firmer and inflexible, so you lose the ability to focus on near objects. There are some nonsurgical options to help aid with seeing clearly, but they do not fix the problem. These options are reading glasses, progressive lenses, and multifocal contact lenses.


Hyperopia is a common vision condition that affects about a fourth of the population. This condition is commonly known as farsightedness. Meaning that you can see objects at a distance very well but cannot focus on objects that are close.

Vision After Refractive Lens Exchange

Depending on the type of lens used in refractive lens exchange, you may still need eyeglasses or contact lenses. Monofocal lenses are used very commonly and offer excellent vision as well as contrast sensitivity. However, these are designed to focus on at one distance, so you may still need glasses for close-up tasks. There has been significant development lately in intraocular lens surgery such as the FDA approval of multifocal and accommodating lenses. These provide vision at multiple distances, so they reduce or eliminate the need for glasses and contact lenses.

Recovery From Refractive Lens Exchange

One of the benefits of this surgery is that there is minimal recovery time. Most patients need one day to rest and then are back to their routine. After the procedure, you will be given eye drops to help stimulate healing. Your ophthalmologist at Boston Eye Group or Boston Laser will go over recovery steps with you.

Refractive Lens Exchange versus LASIK

LASIK is the most common option for vision correction.  If you have a severe refractive error or an abnormal cornea, then the refractive lens exchange may be the better option. Refractive lens surgery can correct almost any degree of farsightedness, unlike LASIK or PRK. Plus, visual acuity is often better after RLE than LASIK or PRK in cases of moderate-to-severe hyperopia.

Schedule a Consultation

If you are looking for vision correction but are unsure of which type will benefit you the most, then talk to one of our ophthalmologists. To set up an appointment contact Boston Laser – Boston Eye Group in Boston, Massachusetts. Call us at (617) 566-0062 or fill out our online form.

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