Clear lens extraction, also known as refractive lens exchange or refractive lensectomy, involves replacing the natural crystalline lens of the eye with an intraocular lens (IOL) in order to decrease or eliminate a patient’s dependency on glasses and contact lenses. Clear lens extraction offers an alternative for individuals who are not suitable candidates for LASIK or PRK, but it is not a widely performed procedure. While clear lens extraction is not yet FDA approved, it can be performed legally and safely.
The Clear Lens Extraction Procedure
Clear lens extraction has many similarities to cataract surgery in that it involves the removal of the crystalline lens, which is then replaced with an IOL. The difference is that clear lens extraction patients are not experiencing any stage of cataracts. To prepare for the procedure, the eye is closely analyzed to determine which IOL options can provide the best results.
Before surgery, the patient is given an anesthetic to ensure comfort. Incisions are carefully placed in the cornea, granting access to the crystalline lens. Ultrasound technology is used to fragment the lens into small pieces that are gently suctioned out of the eye. Next, the replacement IOL is inserted. As with patients who have undergone PRK or LASIK, successful clear lens extraction surgery can give patients the ability to perform many day-to-day tasks without the need for glasses or contact lenses. Some patients may still require glasses for reading and other activities requiring close focus.
Clear Lens Extraction Candidates
Clear lens extraction can be an effective alternative to laser eye surgery. LASIK and PRK have become incredibly popular over the years, but not everyone who wishes to decrease their dependency on glasses and contact lenses is a candidate for these procedures. In some cases, LASIK and PRK may not provide the results they desire. For example, patients over 40 can begin experiencing presbyopia, a weakening of the crystalline lens that makes it difficult to focus. One possible solution is LASIK monovision, an option that can address presbyopia by providing correction for distance focus in one eye and correction for close-up vision in the other. Patients can preview the effects of LASIK monovision using contact lenses, but some may decide they do not wish to pursue the procedure. In this case, patients may wish to explore their candidacy for clear lens extraction. The surest way to determine the best means of addressing your vision needs is to consult with an experienced ophthalmologist.
Clear lens exchange is a more invasive treatment than LASIK or PRK. Therefore, it carries greater risks. Although uncommon, risks of clear lens exchange include retinal detachment and loss of vision.