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Did you go in for a preoperative LASIK consultation and learn that you weren’t a candidate for the procedure? Don’t give up hope. Other procedures are available that could reduce your dependence on glasses and contacts.

There are several reasons that a LASIK doctor may determine that you are not an ideal candidate for the procedure. For instance, some patients have very thin corneas, severe refractive errors or other conditions that prevent them from undergoing LASIK. However, these patients can consider two other procedures: implantable contact lenses (ICLs) and refractive lens exchange (RLE).

Implantable Contact Lenses

ICLs, also known as implantable collamer lenses®, are made of a synthetic collagen substance. This means that they are biocompatible, as collagen is a protein already found in the human body. The ICL procedure involves two separate steps. (Patients should expect minimal discomfort during both parts of the procedure, and they can return to work the day after each step is completed.)

  1. One to two weeks before the insertion of the collamer lenses, the surgeon uses a laser to make two openings near the edge of each iris. This prevents glaucoma, caused by pressure building up in the eyes, from occurring after the lens in inserted.
  2. To insert the lens, the doctor makes a small incision in each eye’s cornea and places a folded lens through the incision. Once inside the eye, the lens gently unfolds, and the doctor makes sure it is in place. The ICL is undetectable to the wearer and onlookers.

Topical anesthesia is applied to the eyes before both procedures to minimize discomfort. The surgeon may also administer a sedative to help the patient stay calm and relaxed.

ICLs are meant to be a permanent vision solution for patients over the age of 21 whose vision has been fairly stable. Patients with a wide range of myopia (nearsightedness) can be treated, including those whose myopia is too severe for LASIK correction.

Refractive Lens Exchange

RLE is also known as refractive lens replacement, lens replacement surgery or clear lens extraction. While RLE can correct nearsightedness, it is not usually recommended when ICLs are an option. The best candidates for RLE are usually people with presbyopia (an age-related vision issue causing trouble reading small print or reading up close) and moderate-to-severe hyperopia.

During the RLE procedure, the surgeon first applies numbing eyedrops, and then makes a small incision at the edge of the cornea. The natural, crystalline lens within the eye is removed and replaced with an artificial, fitted, intraocular lens. Recovery from a RLE procedure is quick and comfortable.

All vision-correction procedures carry risks, which include infection or imperfectly corrected vision. These procedures may not be covered by insurance. As with all other eye-health issues, be sure to discuss your hopes with your ophthalmologist or optometrist and seek his guidance on which procedure may be best for you.

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