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by Michele Boyer

Clear Lens Exchange (CLE) is used to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, cataracts and, indirectly, astigmatism. With CLE the natural lens is removed and replaced with an artificial, implantable intraocular lens (IOL) in its place. Since CLE involves the actual removal of the natural lens, it is, basically the same as traditional cataract removal surgery.

Click to View the Interactive Cataracts Vision Test

The incision through which the lens is removed and the new one inserted may offer the additional benefit of changing the shape of the cornea. As an indirect result, this surgery may offer some correction for astigmatism as this incision may allow the cornea to resume a more normal shape.

Either single-focus or multi-focal. lenses (the accommodating CrystaLens®, or the multi-focal ReZoom® or ReStor®) can be implanted. Single-focus lenses don't accommodate (change focus), so you may still need glasses. If you were presbyotic prior to surgery, your lenses didn't accommodate (the hallmark of presbyopia). Accommodating lens implants will allow some automatic focusing as they respond to the muscle-movement in the eyes. Multi-focus lenses give you a good range of close and distant vision, but are stationery (non-accommodating). Varying magnification levels are part of the construction of the lenses allowing you to see clearly at different distances.

CLE has been used successfully for cataract removal for many years. It is a well-established, safe and reliable procedure, the most common surgery in medicine.

CLE can also correct for monovision, by implanting a distance-focused lens in one eye, and a near-focused lens in the other. If you choose CLE, you can change lenses at a later time if your vision changes, if you decide that you no longer want monovision, or if technology offers a more progressive lens option in the future.

The purpose of CLE is to reduce dependence on corrective lenses, so, the degree of correction you can expect to gain from surgery will be an important consideration. You will also want an idea of your need for corrective lenses for those distances not corrected by your new IOLs to be sure the risk of surgery is worth the gain in vision.

CLE is one the more invasive vision corrective procedures, and as such will carry more risk than LASIK and related refractive correction procedures. Damage to the retina, including detachment, or to the vitria (the gel between the lens and the retina) are possible, reinforcing the importance of finding a surgeon well-experienced in this surgery, as experience reduces the likelihood of error.

If you choose CLE, you will probably want to see a cataract surgeon as most surgeons who specialize in refractive laser correction do far fewer cataract surgeries (lens exchanges) than cataract surgeons do. If you can find a surgeon with considerable experience in both surgeries, all the better, as he would be more capable of giving you an objective prognosis of how each surgery could affect you, personally.

If you need to correct either nearsightedness or farsightedness, CLE may be a good alternative to LASIK surgery. This is good news for people who don't qualify for, or prefer not to have one of the laser correction surgery procedures. Since CLE leaves the cornea intact with little likelihood of damage to the corneal tissue, laser corrective surgery may still be an additional option (for those who qualify for one of these procedures) if further correction is needed.

LASIK is one of the most common surgeries used to correct refractive error (nearsightedness and farsightedness.) It is also used to correct astigmatism and presbyopia. Using a laser beam to ablate corneal tissue, LASIK reshapes the cornea allowing the eye to focus near and far naturally. Quite often, LASIK patients are able to see well without glasses or contacts, with a small percentage only requiring them part time.

Click here to view a chart that should help in understanding the differences between LASIK and Clear Lens Exchange .

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