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LASIK or Refractive Lens Exchange — Which Is Right for You?

Posted on December 9, 2020
Close up Female Eye with Concepts of Laser Eye Surgery.

Did you know that more than 60% of people wear glasses or contact lenses? Perfect vision is rare, so many people need some form of corrective vision treatment. 

But what about when you get tired of wearing glasses or putting in contact lenses every day? Glasses can get in the way of exercise, swimming, and other high-movement activities. Not to mention how often they fog up.

Contacts can be uncomfortable and putting them in every morning becomes a chore. Touching your eyes every day can increase the risk of an eye infection or injury.  So what’s next? 

Have you considered surgery? Laser eye surgery (otherwise known as LASIK) and refractive lens exchange are popular surgical options for correcting vision. How much do you know about them? 

We’re here to guide you so you can decide which (if either) surgical option is for you. Keep reading to learn all about refractive lens exchange and LASIK so you can make an informed decision.

What Is Laser Eye Surgery?

Laser eye surgery is known most commonly known as LASIK. LASIK is an acronym that stands for laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis. It’s one of the most common surgeries done in the United States. About 700,000 LASIK surgeries are done every year.

Laser eye surgery works by reshaping the cornea to correct any refractive issues in the eye. In most cases, it eliminates the need for other visual aids such as glasses or contact lenses, though for some patients it just reduces the need. 

Laser eye surgery is considered elective, even if it’s a legitimate medical procedure. For this reason, it is often not covered by insurance plans. 

Who Is Laser Eye Surgery For?

Laser eye surgery can benefit plenty of people. While it used to be more limited in scope, it can now handle issues with even high levels of astigmatism, nearsightedness, and farsightedness. 

Most adults who are in good health are good candidates for LASIK, though there are some exceptions. 

Anyone who is pregnant or nursing shouldn’t get LASIK. Glasses and contact lenses often change effectiveness during pregnancy, meaning the measurements used in  LASIK may not be as precise during the pregnancy as it would have been had you started before or after. It’s best to wait between two and six months after the birth of the baby to start treatment. 

People also need to have healthy eyes to start laser eye surgery. LASIK isn’t a good idea for anyone with any form of corneal eye disease.

LASIK is not for people who have cataracts, though if you develop cataracts later in life you are able to get surgery to remove them (which is against common belief). You also need to have had stable vision for at least six months prior to surgery.

What Are The Risks of LASIK?

LASIK has a quick recovery period and it’s a safe procedure. There are a few mild side effects that you might experience after your laser eye surgery, but they’re expected to subside as you recover.

You may experience dry eyes after laser eye surgery. You might experience sensitivity to light or light halos. 

These are expected to be temporary, but see a doctor if you’re alarmed. 

Serious risks include loss of vision, regression, and new astigmatism. These are rare but should be addressed with your doctor as soon as you begin to notice them.

What Is Refractive Lens Exchange?

Refractive lens exchange is a less well-known form of eye surgery. RLE aims to offer patients all of the benefits of cataract surgery before developing cataracts. It can often improve vision at all distances from near to far, and it changes your eyes in such a way that you will never have cataracts in the future.

Your natural lens will be replaced with an artificial intraocular lens. This sounds complex, but the procedure takes less than ten minutes on average and you’ll be able to go home on the same day (as long as someone else drives you).

This lens exchange is exactly what doctors do for people with cataracts except that it can help anyone that is a good candidate.

What Are Cataracts? 

Cataracts happen when your natural lens becomes cloudy. People with cataracts often need more light to read well, have decreased vision, and may not be able to see bright colors as vividly as they once did. 

Cataracts most often occur in older patients. If severe enough, you can sometimes see them with the naked eye. They require surgery to correct.

Who Is Refractive Lens Exchange For?

Not everyone is a good candidate for LASIK. Some people who aren’t good candidates for LASIK make great candidates for RLE.  This is especially true for many patients over the age of 40 that are dealing with clarity of vision not only at a distance, but also up close without correction.

RLE is an advanced procedure designed to correct for nearly all common vision problems normally corrected with glasses and contact lenses. It can even be used to address multifocal problems (meaning that you likely won’t need to wear reading glasses after you have surgery). It can handle extreme nearsightedness and farsightedness that LASIK may not be able to cure. 

While this surgery can be for anyone over 21, it’s best suited for people over 45 who suffer from nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and/or presbyopia.

As with LASIK, you need to have healthy eyes to get a refractive lens exchange. If you qualify for LASIK, it’s the more conservative option and it might be the better choice. 

What Are the Risks of RLE?

RLE carries more risks than LASIK because it is an intraocular procedure. Patients are more likely to experience mild over correction or under correction. There’s a risk of retinal detachment and bleeding, as well as a risk of glaucoma. 

These are uncommon risks, but it’s important that you take them into account and discuss them with your doctor before you make your decision. 

Refractive Lens Exchange or LASIK: Which Is Right for You?

You don’t have to suffer from poor vision forever. Elective eye surgeries are popular. They’re advanced enough to be outpatient procedures and side effects are rare.

Most conditions can be corrected with LASIK. Refractive lens exchange can handle more complex conditions that LASIK isn’t ideal for. 

Talk to your doctor about which surgical option is right for you.

If you’re ready for a free pre-surgical eye screening, or if you have questions about any eye procedures, contact us. We want to give you the clear vision that you deserve.

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Eye LASIK Austin

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