Refractive lens surgery, (also called clear lens exchange or lens exchange) is very similar to cataract removal surgery – one of the most commonly performed procedures in the UK according to clinical data. It removes the natural crystalline lens in the eye with a clear artificial intraocular lens (IOL) and can help improve your eyesight, often eliminating the need to wear glasses or contact lenses
The procedure will take up to 30 minutes and is carried out after you have had anaesthetic eye drops to numb the eye surface. Your surgeon will replace the faulty lens with a new one.
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You will have a formal consultation with a healthcare professional. During this time you will be able to explain your medical history, symptoms and raise any concerns that you might have.
We will also discuss with you whether any further diagnostic tests, such as scans or blood tests, are needed. Any additional costs will be discussed before further tests are carried out.
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Our dedicated team will also give you tailored advice to follow in the run up to your visit.
We understand that undergoing eye surgery might cause you anxiety and worry. Our experienced and caring clinical staff will be there with you every step of the way. As well as delivering excellent care and treatment, they’ll answer your questions and provide reassurance if you’re worried at any stage.
The procedure is nearly identical to cataract removal surgery, except that instead of extracting the cloudy lens caused by cataracts, it extracts a clear one.
You'll be given two sets of eye drops before your treatment begins. The first will dilate or widen your pupils. This makes it easier for the surgeon to see the lens in your eye. The second will provide a local anaesthetic to your eye, ensuring the outer surface is numb. In some cases, the surgeon will inject a local anaesthetic around the eye instead.
You may be aware of light and movement while you are being treated but will not feel any pain. This is normal and to be expected.
Once the anaesthetic has taken effect, your surgeon will make a tiny incision on the cornea and use an ultrasound probe to break up the lens. The fragments are removed with a fine tube and a new lens is inserted. The procedure takes 20-30 minutes.
You will usually be able to go home on the same day as your treatment: however you'll need someone to accompany you as your vision will be impaired. Your eye will be covered with a protective pad and shield at the end of your treatment. You're likely to need them for at least a day and your surgeon might advise you to keep the shield on at night for a week or two. This is to prevent you rubbing or pushing your eye when you are asleep.
Your eye may ache for 10 to 14 days. It will also itch or feel sticky for a few days. We will also give you drops to use for the next four weeks to help the eye heal and prevent infection. Your nurse will show you how to put these in and give you advice about caring for your eye. You may find it helpful to wear sunglasses or a hat when you leave the hospital as your eye may be sensitive to the sunlight.
Before leaving hospital we may give you a date for a follow-up appointment with your surgeon. Try not to touch or rub your eye. You will have blurred vision for a few days. As long as you don't mind blurry vision while your eye adjusts to its new lens or you have glasses fitted, you can read and watch television almost immediately. How soon you can return to work depends on the nature of the job. Many people are back at work after a few days but if your job involves strenuous activities or potential exposure to liquid or dust that could get in your eye you may need a few weeks off. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) cautions that you must be able to read a number plate 20 metres away with both eyes open. Up to 90% of people who have surgery for cataracts will eventually have a good enough level of vision to start driving again. Your surgeon will give you advice about when you can resume driving if you have no other eye condition.
You should be enjoying a much clearer view of the world as soon as the side- effects clear 10-14 days after your operation. Depending on the sight in your other eye you might need some help for a few days with routine tasks such as shopping and you won't be able to drive.
Refractive lens exchange is one of the most commonly performed operations and is generally safe. However as with all operations, it carries risks. On rare occasions, complications can occur after eye lens surgery. If you experience any of these symptoms - severe pain, have loss of vision or increasing redness of the eye, you should contact the hospital for advice. Don’t hesitate to call us. Your consultant will talk to you about the possible risks and complications of having this procedure and how they apply to you.
If you have any questions or concerns about your recovery, we're here to help.
We are committed to delivering excellent individual care and customer service across our network of hospitals, clinics and specialist care centres around the UK. Our dedicated and highly trained team aim to achieve consistently excellent results. For us it's more than just treating patients, it's about looking after people.
The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.
Spire Hartswood Hospital is based in quiet and peaceful grounds, just two miles from the M25 motorway and easily accessible from other major roads like the M11, A12 and A13. It is 25 miles from London Stansted Airport and 20 miles from central London.
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