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What Does RLE (Refractive Lens Exchange) Cost?

Posted on November 11, 2020
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Over 800,000 refractive eye procedures like LASIK and PRK are performed each year in the United States alone. One of the most common and misunderstood is RLE or refractive lens exchange.

When the eye’s natural lens inside of the eye begins to become rigid, the eye loses it’s ability to focus on objects up close.  The solution most patients end up relying on to improve their vision up close is bifocal glasses or over the counter reading glasses. RLE procedures can replace the natural lens inside of the eye with a high tech artificial lens  in a simple, straightforward, and safe manner.  For many, this means the elimination of glasses all together.

A major misconception is that high refractive lens exchange costs prevent the average patient from obtaining them. If that were true, the number of annual procedures wouldn’t be so high.  Modern financing options make the procedure affordable for most.

The more you know about the procedure, the more motivated you will likely be to fit it into your budget. After all, improving your vision means improving every waking moment for the rest of your life!  Read our guide to learn what RLE is, how much it costs, how to pay for it, and where to get it.

What is Refractive Lens Exchange?

A procedure’s cost cannot be the only factor you evaluate. You must also look at what it entails and the benefits and risks it presents.

Why It’s Performed

Your eyes rely on their lens for 25-35% of their ability to focus. This makes them one of the eye’s most critical components. Their natural degeneration with age can have a major effect on your vision.

Half of all Americans get cataracts by age 75, with the condition affecting over 24.4 million citizens over 40 years of age. Simply said, if you live long enough you are incredibly likely to need cataract surgery.  Cataracts are just the final stage of a 3-stage degradation of the lens common to everyone as we age.  This age-related  condition is known as dysfunctional lens syndrome and affects all areas of vision.

Surgery is one of the most reliable ways to repair and prevent these debilitating conditions. New methods enter the medical field often, but replacing poorly functioning parts of the eye with new material is one of the best and newest methods.

How It’s Performed

Refractive lens exchange or RLE is also known as a lens replacement surgery or a clear lens extraction. It replaces the dysfunctional lens in the eye with a new one.

The new lens is known as an IOL. There are three types; monofocal fixed-focus, accommodating, and multifocal.

A monofocal fixed-focal IOL corrects one type of refractive error in the eye. They provide clear vision at a close, immediate, or far range, depending on which of these areas the patient would like to see well.  However, they can only be set for one specific distance..

Accommodating IOLs allow for more range. They’re another type of monofocal lens but can adjust power by moving within the eye when changing the focus power.

Multifocal IOLs are an advanced option that provides multiple ranges of vision. They remain stationary in the eye yet are able to correct multiple distances with a high technology lens.

A refractive lens exchange procedure takes approximately 7-8 minutes for each eye. Doctors treat one eye at a time and use numbing drops and local anesthetic to reduce discomfort.

After the Procedure

After a week of recovery, it may take time to notice the full benefits of an RLE procedure. The brain simply has to catch up with the new technology that has been placed within the eye.  Side effects are rare and could include:

  • Dislocated IOL
  • Retinal detachment
  • Infection
  • Droopy eyelids
  • Eye pressure
  • Glare
  • Halos
  • Burning or itchy eyes

The IOL shouldn’t be noticeable to you or anyone else because it’s placed behind your pupil and iris. The effects are permanent and success rates are high. If you notice persistent side effects, contact your doctor immediately.

Refractive Lens Exchange Cost

A pair of prescription glasses costs $300. Replacing them every year will cost the average 25-year-old $18,000 throughout their lifetime.

Contacts are even less affordable. A year’s supply ranges from $220-$250, plus an additional $150-$200 per year for contact lens solution. This adds up to a total of $500 per year and $27,000 for the average lifetime.  Specialty contact lenses like torics or multifocals can cost even more.

Your total refractive lens exchange or RLE cost depends on a variety of factors. They include the doctor you visit and the area you live in.

How Much Does Refractive Lens Exchange Cost in the US?

The average US doctor may charge anywhere from $4,000-$10,000 per eye for a refractive lens exchange. This often doesn’t include any follow-up visits.

Paying for RLE

Does Medicare cover RLE? The answer is no in most cases, but there are some exceptions.

Medicare Part B doesn’t cover the costs of procedures used to implant premium refractive IOLs. Medicare Part B also only covers services it deems “medically necessary.” For these reasons, Medicare doesn’t have to pay for RLE.

Medicare Part B will cover costs when removing a cataract becomes medically necessary. This applies for both conventional and premium refractive IOLs.

Payment gets a bit more complicated when other conditions are present in addition to cataracts. Medicare Part B covers medically-necessary cataract surgery but can charge the patient for astigmatism corrections that occur at the same time.

Traditional insurance companies usually don’t pay for refractive surgery because they consider it an elective treatment that isn’t medically necessary.

Where Can I Get A Refractive Lens Exchange?

Knowing the average refractive lens exchange cost is an essential part of deciding if the procedure is right for you. There are ways to get help paying for the procedure such as interest-free financing through companies like Care Credit. The benefits make the costs worth it.

Once you’ve decided that a refractive lens exchange is the best way to get you seeing clearly, find the best provider to perform the procedure. You must measure cost against quality to get the best results at a fair price. 

We offer Lasik, refractive lens exchange, and a range of other professional-level eye care services. Book a free consultation to see what we can do for you today.

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