What is refractive lens exchange for presbyopia?

Laura C. Fine, MD
Refractive lens exchange (clear lens extraction) is a surgical option for people with presbyopia (a loss in the eye's focusing ability that occurs with age) -- albeit one that is controversial and not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Variable-focus implantable lenses enable people who undergo cataract surgery to see objects at various distances. Some ophthalmologists use these lenses to replace the natural lenses in people who are middle-aged or older who have the beginnings of cataracts that aren't yet affecting their vision and who rely on glasses or contact lenses for presbyopia.

But keep two things in mind before undergoing this surgery for presbyopia. First, it will not be covered by insurance unless you have cataracts, and the cost can be as high as $5,000 for each eye. Second, many ophthalmologists are reluctant to perform this procedure in people without cataracts because of the risks and lack of information about long-term safety and effectiveness. The FDA has noted that the chances of retinal detachment are slightly higher in people who have undergone refractive lens exchange, compared with the general population, but otherwise, the risks are similar to those associated with cataract surgery.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.