Oculase Articles

Refractive Lens Exchange surgery: What is the process?

Mr Tariq Ayoub - 9 May 2022

Do you need Refractive Lens Exchange surgery? You may be curious about the RLE surgery process.

In this article, we’ll cover what happens before, during, and after the procedure. We’ll also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of RLE surgery.


Refractive Lens Exchange surgery

In Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE), also known as lens replacement surgery, we replace your natural lens with an Advanced Technology Lens.

At Oculase, we have several lens options available including trifocal lenses, EDOF lenses, monofocal plus lenses and toric lenses. You can discuss the lens implant best suited for you with your ophthalmologist (eye specialist).

During your initial consultation, we will discuss your eye health and suitability for the Refractive Lens Exchange procedure. We can also talk about any alternatives and answer any questions you have about the procedure. Before you decide on RLE surgery, we will also inform you of the procedure’s risks and benefits.

Book your initial consultation.


Who is suitable for Refractive Lens Exchange surgery?

Watch Mr Tariq Ayoub, our Consultant Ophthalmologist, explain who is suitable for RLE surgery in our video below.


There are some instances where we may not recommend RLE surgery. We may feel that you are too young for RLE and suggest an alternative. Or we may have other concerns regarding your general health.

Let us know if you have any of the following conditions, so we can best advise you on treatment options.

Health conditions to mention

  • Diabetes
  • Immune deficiencies
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Personal or family history of corneal diseases, such as Keratoconus
  • A history of other eye diseases, such as Glaucoma, Macular degeneration, and Cataracts

RLE surgery is identical to cataract surgery and benefits people with early cataracts.


RLE surgery procedure

Before the procedure

You will have to attend an initial assessment. At your initial assessment, you will have multiple scans of your eyes and a thorough eye examination. Based on the results of this assessment we will recommend the type and strength of lens implant you will need. If you wear contact lenses, you must stop wearing them at least two weeks before your assessment.

During the procedure

Before RLE surgery, we will instil eye drops to dilate your eyes and administer anaesthesia in the form of eye drops to numb your eyes and prevent pain. 

Our ophthalmologist will make a small incision on the surface of your eye, so they can remove your natural lens and replace it with the new artificial lens implant. 

Once we have inserted the artificial lens, it will unfold and assume a natural position in your eye. Altogether, the procedure will take between 15-20 minutes.

After the procedure

As the procedure is a day-case, you can go home straight away. Though, you will need to arrange travel beforehand, as you won’t be able to drive for around a week. We advise you not to travel alone right after the surgery. Therefore, you may wish to bring someone with you on the day of the surgery to help you back home and assist you with eye drops.

Before you leave, we will advise you on the recovery process and provide you with aftercare guidance. We will provide you with eye drops to help with healing and counter any temporary irritation or dryness in the eye.


Recovery from Refractive Lens Exchange

Recovering after RLE surgery is usually quick. You may experience some side effects, such as discomfort in the eye, blurred vision, or glare, though this shouldn’t last long.

RLE surgery is a safe and effective procedure with a high success rate. Read our blog to learn more about how successful Refractive Lens Exchange surgery is.

refractive lens exchange procedure


Advantages and disadvantages of Refractive Lens Exchange

If you are unsure whether to choose RLE surgery, you may want to balance out the pros and cons. Below we explain the advantages and risks of refractive lens exchange surgery.


Advantages of RLE surgery

RLE surgery can help you focus on nearby objects better and improve your overall vision. Additionally, you should find it easier to read and distinguish different colours.

By replacing your natural crystalline lens with an artificial one, your eyesight is less likely to change over time. This also means you won’t get a cataract in the future in the eye/s that have had the surgery.

Refractive lens exchange surgery is a quick and safe procedure. It is one of the most commonly performed surgeries worldwide and has a low complication rate. Though, it does carry some risks. We explain those in more detail below.


Risks of RLE surgery

Many people experience short term side effects after the refractive lens exchange procedure. Though, these should mostly settle after a couple of weeks. Common side effects include dry, itchy eyes, blurry vision, and light sensitivity.

All surgeries carry a degree of risk and some overlapping complications, such as infection, bleeding and discomfort. Though, some risks are specific to RLE surgery.

RLE surgery risks:

Severe vision loss from refractive lens exchange surgery is quite rare, occurring in roughly 1 in 500 people.


Book an appointment

If you are experiencing presbyopia or another refractive error, speak to our ophthalmologist about refractive lens exchange surgery. At Oculase, we deliver quality care tailored to each patient.

Mr Tariq Ayoub is a highly skilled and compassionate surgeon. He has received Specialist Certification in Refractive Surgery (Cert-LRS) from the Royal College of Ophthalmologists. 

Mr Ayoub will examine your eyes and assess your overall eye health before recommending the most suitable treatment option.

Book a consultation today and put your eye health in the hands of an expert.

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About the author

Mr Tariq Ayoub
Mr Tariq Ayoub, Consultant Ophthalmologist

Mr Ayoub has been rated as one of the top eye surgeons in the UK. He is a Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in London, one of the largest NHS trusts in England. He is also the Lead for the Emergency Department at Western Eye Hospital, as part of the Imperial College Trust.

Mr Ayoub completed his Ophthalmology training at the prestigious London School of Ophthalmology, namely at Moorfields Eye Hospital and Royal Free Hospital. During his career, he has received many prestigious awards from national and international organisations for his work in the field of ophthalmology.

His clinical interests include treatment for cataracts, vision correction, corneal disease, eye-lid disorders, trauma, and general ophthalmology. Mr Ayoub prides himself on the high quality of his work. With his extensive experience, he can holistically manage complex eye conditions to deliver the best care for his patients.

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