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Clear Lens Extraction or Refractive Lens Exchange (CLE/RLE)


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CLE is a new procedure that involves removing your own crystalline lens and replacing it with a synthetic one. When errors of refraction are treated with this operation, it is possible either to exchange the lens or to add the synthetic lens in front of the natural lens to help increase the refractive power of the eye. This is of particular use if you suffer from a severe form of long sight, short sight or astigmatism, allowing you to be free from corrective eyewear.

Who should have Clear Lens Extraction or Refractive Lens Exchange?

This operation can be used to treat either cataracts, by removing the cloudy lens, or errors of refraction such as myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism. It is ideal if you have previously been refused laser eye surgery. Another option you may wish to consider is Intraocular contact lenses, which are implanted in front of your lens, instead of on the front of your eye. They do not need to be changed. This operation is also suitable if you have cataracts or any other form of refractive error such as myopia. If you develop cataracts and you are over 60 CLE is the preferred treatment method as it completely removes the cloudy lens. Unfortunately if your vision is becoming progressively worse CLE will not be able to treat or prevent this.

What are the types of lenses that can be used?

There are two main types of intraocular lens implants or IOL’s that can be exchanged or added alongside the natural lens. There are either the single vision or accommodating (true) vision. The single vision lens is able to correct only one type of visual defect as it cannot change its shape. So if you are short sighted having CLE will enable you to see objects at a distance.

The other type of exchangeable lens is the accommodative or true lens. This lens is able to change its shape during use, allowing you to see objects both up close and far away. This is ideal if you require bifocal or reading glasses and are unable to see objects either close or far away. By having CLE, you can become free from your dependency on glasses and contact lenses.

There are three major types of accommodative or true lenses:

  • ReSTOR
  • CrystaLens
  • ReZoom

Your ophthalmologist will be able to help you decide which of these lens replacements is ideal for you. The type you opt for depends upon your age, level of activity, general health and what you can afford.

Are there any risks with Clear Lens Extraction or Refractive Lens Exchange?

There are a number of risks that are associated with Clear Lens Extraction or Refractive Lens Exchange, such as eye damage, loss of vision, eye oedema and glaucoma. There is a chance that following the surgery you can develop one of these complications. You may also be at a greater risk of developing a retinal detachment following the operation.

How is Clear Lens Extraction or Refractive Lens Exchange surgery performed?

As with all the vision correction procedures you will be made comfortable and your eye will be numbed so you don’t experience any pain. To enable the ophthalmologist to access your eye it will be held open with a device called a speculum. If your lens is being replaced the surgeon will use a probe that emits an ultrasound pulse to help break up the lens in your eye. Once it is broken down, the lens fragments can be sucked out of your eye and then the synthetic IOL can be placed into the space that used to be occupied by the lens.

How much does CLE cost?

You should expect to pay around £1500 per eye for CLE. This will usually include aftercare.


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