LASIK is the right answer for many patients who are considering refractive surgery to improve their vision. However, in patients with extreme cases of nearsightedness or farsightedness, laser vision correction may not be a safe or ideal option. In these cases, surgical implants are an excellent option and are placed in the eyes to provide an improvement in vision.
Functioning much like the contact lenses most people are familiar with, implantable lenses (ICLs) are an excellent solution for vision correction. For this procedure, your ophthalmologist makes a micro-incision in the cornea and then places the implantable lens in the eye, usually between the iris and the eye’s natural lens, though some implantable lenses are made to sit in front of the iris.
Implantable lenses may also be called “phakic intraocular lenses.” Phakic refers to an eye that still has its natural lens, and since these lenses assist your natural lens without removing it, your eye remains phakic after the procedure. These lenses are designed to treat patients who are nearsighted. Implantable lenses can also benefit patients with astigmatism and those for whom LASIK and other refractive procedures may not be an option.
Implantable lenses are meant to offer long term vision correction. For most people, implantable lenses remain in the eye until they have cataract surgery in their later years. Some patients do experience changes in their prescription over time. If that happens, there are options to address it and maintain clear vision without removing the lens.
Refractive Lens Exchange
A refractive lens exchange is an ophthalmic procedure identical to cataract surgery. In this exchange procedure, the impaired natural lens is replaced with an artificial one. But with this procedure, the eye’s natural lens is clear and prior to cataract development, so the the lens replacement usually serves to correct farsightedness or provide the patient with a range of vision offered by current IOL technologies.
There are two main reasons that the eye's natural lens is removed: either the patient is farsighted and requires an artificial lens for improved focusing, or the patient's natural lens has developed a cataract that is clouding sharp vision. A refractive lens exchange is a procedure identical to cataract surgery. In this exchange procedure, the impaired natural lens is replaced with an artificial one. But with this procedure, unlike cataracts, the eye's natural lens is clear so its replacement usually serves to correct either farsightedness or focusing difficulties.
An RLE is a good alternative for patients who are not candidates for LASIK or who prefer to avoid procedures that permanently alter their eye, while still achieving results that make them less dependent on glasses or contact lenses. These lenses last a lifetime and are not visible. Patients who undergo RLE will never develop cataracts or require cataract surgery.