Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE) is very similar to cataract surgery in that it involves replacing the eyes natural lens with premium intraocular lens implant. The techniques involved are very similar as well. RLE is typically performed for one of three reasons.
The first reason is to replace a lens that shows early signs of cataract formation. By treating a cloudy lens early, it is possible to avoid the process of gradual vision loss that accompanies the formation of cataracts. This option is particularly attractive to those who reduce their dependence on glasses and contact lenses.
RLE can also be used to treat presbyopia and astigmatism. LASIK can treat nearsightedness (the inability to see in the distance), but it cannot treat presbyopia. Presbyopia occurs when our natural crystalline lens in the eye begins to show signs of aging. The initial signs of presbyopia is the inability to read without glasses. Unlike LASIK which can only provide vision at one distance, RLE can provide vision at all distances: near, intermediate, and distance vision.
The third reason some choose to have refractive lens exchange is to treat nearsightedness or farsightedness so extreme that LASIK cannot be used. With LASIK, the cornea can only be safely reshaped enough to treat a refractive errors within a certain range. Patients with larger refractive errors cannot have LASIK performed, but RLE may be a good option.