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Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE)

What is Refractive Lens Exchange?

RLE is a surgical procedure which involves replacing the natural lens in the eye with a synthetic one. The procedure takes 10 to 15 minutes and is virtually painless. 

RLE can correct short-sightedness, long-sightedness and astigmatism to reduce the need for glasses or contact lenses. The surgery can also improve vision for those living with cataracts. 

This procedure may be recommended for patients over the age of 45 years, though this is not always strictly the case. As part of the aging process, your eye’s natural lens may start losing its functionality. This means you may need to rely on reading glasses or distance glasses. Laser Eye Surgery may still be a suitable option for you; however, it may not have lasting effects when your lens changes as you age.

This surgery has a high success rate and minimal recovery time.

Ready to book now? Get in touch to discuss your needs and decide on the best course of treatment for you.

Ready to book now? Get in touch to discuss your needs and decide on the best course of treatment for you.

What intraocular lenses can be used for RLE?

There are different types of lenses to suit different needs. These include: 

  • Monofocal lenses may suit patients who require perfect vision for distance. These lenses involve correcting both eyes for the same distance. However, spectacles are sometimes needed for near vision. They are designed to correct vision at a specific point in space. 
  • Multifocal lenses have special features that give you good near, intermediate and distance vision-all in one lens. They offer a good chance of not requiring glasses. 
  • Toric lenses correct for astigmatism issues caused a different curvature of the cornea or lens in your eye (referred to as regular astigmatism, corneal astigmatism or lenticular astigmatism). 
  • Phakic lens surgery means the synthetic lens is placed in your eye without removing your natural lens. The synthetic lens implants redirect light rays on to your retina to allow your near-sighted eye to see distant objects more clearly. This is used to treat near-sightedness. 
  • Accommodative lenses can move in response to your eye muscles, similar to the way the natural eye lens does, providing excellent distance and intermediate vision and functional near vision. Patients who use a computer every day may especially benefit from accommodative lenses.  

Sometimes a combination of lenses is necessary. It may also be recommended to have bespoke lenses made for you. 

Your consultant will consider your specific case to recommend the right lens to suit you. This is why accurate measurements and an in-depth consultation is needed before your procedure. 

Who is eligible for RLE?

RLE is suitable for patients aged 45 or over. However, younger patients will be considered in some cases if you require a glasses prescription higher than the normal range for laser eye surgery. 

The benefits of private Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE) surgery

After RLE surgery, you should be able to: 

  • see things in focus at near, mid and long distances 
  • look into bright lights and not see as much glare 
  • enjoy higher colour definition. 

You may also have a reduced need for glasses and contact lenses. If you have another condition affecting your eyes, such as diabetes or glaucoma, you may still have limited vision, even after successful surgery. 

If you undergo an RLE procedure, you will not need a cataract removal procedure later in life. This is because artificial lenses cannot get cataracts.

At Healthshare, our specialist Consultants and Surgeons are true experts in their field, dedicated to helping you get the best possible outcome. 

What can I expect during RLE surgery?

During your initial consultation, your consultant will scan and test your eyes to determine your suitability for this procedure and which type of lens implant would best suit your needs and lifestyle.  They will discuss with you, in detail, the benefits and risks of the procedure, then offer a bespoke care plan for you. 

The lens exchange procedure normally takes between ten and fifteen minutes, is virtually painless, and you will be able to go home on the same day. As with laser eye surgery, it is usually performed under local or topical anaesthetic. Most people see an immediate improvement in their vision. 

Surgery is usually performed on one eye at a time. Most patients will have their second eye treated within a couple of weeks and it is following this that the most dramatic results are seen. 

On the day of the surgery, anaesthetising eye drops and a mild sedative will be given to you to ensure the procedure is painless. Your surgeon will soften your existing lens using an ultrasound. This is then emulsified, removed and replaced with a clear artificial lens, which is held in place by the back membrane of the lens. 

Recovery from RLE

Recovery times for this type of surgery vary from person to person but typically take between three to four days. You may experience blurred vision and glare during this time, along with some sensitivity and discomfort in your eye, but this will only last a few days. You will be given antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drops to help. 

You should be able to return to work within a few days after the procedure. You’ll be able to drive once your Consultant has confirmed that it is safe for you to do so in your follow-up consultation. 

Complications from RLE

Your Consultant will do various tests and take many things into consideration before determining if you are a suitable candidate for this procedure to ensure the best outcome. They will discuss any potential risks with you. 

However, no surgery is without its risks. In some cases there may be some residual short or long-sightedness, or astigmatism after the surgery. You may still need to wear glasses for specific tasks as a result. In some cases, a laser “top-up” procedure can be carried out to improve the vision further. 

You may experience halos, or glares, immediately after your treatment. This should improve a great deal within the first month and continue to resolve over a three-month period. 


Please call us to discuss pricing at the Healthshare Clinic Winchester.


The intraocular lens implants are left in place for life. They are designed to safely remain inside your body, made from acrylic polymers. 

The accuracy of IOL calculations is roughly 94% with modern technology. Some patients may find that their sight has a small residual refractive error after surgery. For these patients, we perform laser eye surgery (LASEK) to obtain the best possible vision. 

After this, patients should enjoy stable vision for life. 

After RLE surgery, vision may sometimes change in the first few months after surgery. This can be caused by a haze in a membrane that supports the new lens. However, this only occurs in 10-20% of patients and can be fixed with a follow-up painless laser treatment called a YAG Capsulotomy. This permanently protects against any further recurrence. 

Ways to pay

Paying for yourself

Healthshare provides access to the highest quality care giving you the opportunity to access the very best treatment, facilities and consultants. Healthcare the way you want it, when you need it.

Spread the cost

A fixed term loan, provided by our partners Chrysalis Finance, will allow you to spread the cost of treatment and allow you to pay in monthly instalments over a time period to suit you.

Medical insurance

If you have private medical insurance you can get referred to a Healthshare Clinic for the very best treatment. Contact your insurance provider to pre-authorise your treatment today.

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