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What is the Difference Between Refractive Lens Exchange and Lasik?

Have you ever wished you could permanently say goodbye to glasses and contact lenses? It’s never been easier thanks to LASIK and Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE) surgery. Both of these procedures can restore flawed vision, but what’s the difference between them, and which is right for you?

What Are LASIK and Refractive Lens Exchange?

Before you can decide which of these procedures to pursue, it’s important to understand them. LASIK and RLE both correct flaws in patients’ vision. But while these surgeries focus on the same small area, their methods are very different.


LASIK stands for Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis. Before LASIK, the exact contours of your eye are measured to detect vision flaws. During the surgery, highly trained professionals then sculpt the surface of the cornea and reshape it so that the light refocuses properly on the retina. LASIK may be performed with bladed medical instruments or entirely with lasers. The minuscule changes are just enough to leave you with near-perfect vision.

Refractive Lens Exchange

RLE, on the other hand, is a more invasive but also more versatile procedure. Rather than change the shape of your cornea, RLE replaces the lens that causes refraction errors in the first place. That might sound intimidating, but it’s very similar to cataract surgery and is a great alternative for patients who are not candidates for LASIK.

Which Surgical Option is Right for You?

So, which procedure leads to the best outcome? The answer varies with every patient. You’ll need to consult with your vision specialist to know for sure, but there are a few general factors to consider.

Qualifying for RLE Over LASIK

Most patients seeking vision correction surgery are screened for LASIK first. LASIK is a fast procedure with a quick recovery window. The average patient enjoys crisp vision on the same day as their surgery.

Unfortunately, LASIK is only available within certain limits. Too much refractive error can require extensive cornea removal, risking complications. In this situation, RLE is the more viable option. RLE is also the preferred method for people with presbyopia or bifocals.

Factoring in Risk and Recovery Time

The downside of RLE surgery is its increased recovery time and chances for complications. Although both procedures are safe and performed all the time, RLE does require incisions into each eye to replace the lenses. Potential issues can occur as the lens heals, although they are rare, especially when performed by a qualified surgeon like Dr. Kung and his team. Typically, patients get back on their feet and are seeing clearly within a few days.

Finding the Right Option for Your Vision

Kung Eye Center takes pride in finding the right solution for every patient and delivering the best results. If you’re tired of your glasses fogging up or contact lenses irritating your eyes, restore your vision to natural perfection. Contact our vision team today to schedule a consultation and learn more about LASIK and RLE.

Request an Appointment

Please call our New York office at (929) 429-2928 or our New Jersey office at (732) 724-2535 with any questions you may have.