Lens Replacement Surgery

Lens replacement surgery refers to a group of common medical procedures in which a person's vision is restored through the implantation of a contact lens into the eye.

The average cost of lens replacement surgery is approximately £2,000 per eye. Many clinics offer finance options to help you spread the cost of the surgery.

It is one of the safest and most effective surgical vision correction procedures, with serious side effects being very rare.

Lens Replacement Surgery Explained

Lens replacement surgery is a common type of vision correction procedure in which an artificial lens is permanently implanted into the eye. These lenses work like traditional contact lenses that are put over the surface of the eye, allowing you to see clearly.

Lens replacement surgery is performed on patients with refractive errors who do not qualify for laser eye surgery, but who no longer wish to wear prescription glasses or contact lenses. It is also used to restore vision in those who suffer from eye conditions which cannot be successfully treated using laser technology. There are three different types of lens replacement surgery: implantable contact lens (ICL) surgery, refractive lens exchange (RLE) surgery, and cataract surgery.

  • Implantable contact lens (ICL) surgery: during ICL surgery, an artificial lens is fitted between your iris (the coloured part of your eye) and the eye’s natural lens.

  • Refractive lens exchange (RLE) surgery: your eye’s natural lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens.

  • Cataract surgery: cataracts form on your eye’s natural lens, causing it to become cloudy. During cataract surgery, the diseased lens is removed and replaced with an artificial one.

What Does It Treat?

Lens replacement surgery can successfully treat a range of refractive errors in those who aren’t suitable for laser eye surgery, as well as several eye conditions including cataracts. The type of lens replacement surgery you will need will depend on the type of vision problem you have. Your ophthalmologist will be able to advise you on which type of surgery is right for you.

The table below provides you with information about what vision problems each type of lens replacement surgery corrects.

Eye Condition What Is It? Surgery Type
Myopia More commonly known as short-sightedness, myopia is a refractive error that causes objects in the far distance to be blurry, while objects in the near distance appear clear and in focus. RLE or ICL
Hyperopia Also known as long-sightedness, hyperopia is a refractive error which causes close-up objects to be blurry, while objects far away are seen clearly. RLE
Presbyopia This is a natural part of the aging process in which the eye’s lens becomes less elastic, causing a progressively worsening ability to focus on objects which are close to you. RLE
Astigmatism Astigmatism is a refractive error in which the eye does not focus light evenly onto your retina, causing blurred vision at all distances. RLE
Cataracts Cataracts are caused by an abnormal buildup of protein on your eye’s lens, causing it to become less transparent. This makes your vision cloudy and misty, and can lead to blindness if left untreated. Cataract

What Are The Different Types Of Lens Implant?

There are two different types of lenses which are implanted into the eye during lens replacement surgery. These are intraocular lenses (IOLs) and phakic intraocular lenses (phakic IOLs). The type of lens that will be put into your eye will depend on what type of lens replacement surgery you have:

  • IOLs are used in both RLE surgery and cataract surgery, and replace the eye’s natural lens.

  • Phakic IOLs are only used in ICL surgery. They do not replace the eye’s natural lens, but instead are simply inserted in front of it.

Both IOLs and phakic IOLs are categorised into different models which provide varying degrees of focussing power to allow you to see clearly. The model that will be implanted into your eye will depend on your eye’s prescription.

The table below provides you with information about the different models of IOLs and phakic IOLs, including their name and how they work to correct vision problems.

Lens Model Lens Type How It Works
Monofocal IOL These allow you to see clearly at just one distance, either near, far or intermediate distance. You will still need to wear glasses to see at certain distances after surgery.
Multifocal IOL These work in the same way as bifocal glasses, allowing you to see clearly at both near and far distances. These eliminate the need to wear glasses after surgery. These are not advised for patients with small pupils, or for people who do a lot of night driving.
Accommodating IOL These work in the same way as multifocal lenses, allowing you to see clearly across multiple distances. However, you will need to wear glasses after surgery to see clearly at near distances.
Toric IOL These provide high definition vision in just one part of the lens to correct moderate to severe astigmatism. You will need to wear glasses after surgery to see clearly at near distances.
Trifocal IOL These are a type of high performance multifocal lens that help you to focus your vision at both near and far distances.
Verisyes Phakic IOL These correct moderate to severe myopia by allowing you to see clearly at far distances. These eliminate the need for glasses after surgery.
Visian Phakic IOL These work in the same way as verisyes lenses, allowing you to focus at far distances. You do not need to wear glasses after surgery.

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How Much Does Lens Replacement Surgery Cost?

The cost of lens replacement surgery starts from approximately £2,000 per eye. The table below provides you with a guide price for the different types of lens replacement surgery based on prices quoted by some of the UK’s leading eye surgery clinics.

Lens Replacement Surgery Type Starting Price (Per Eye)
Implantable Contact Lens (ICL) From £2495
Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE) From £1995
Cataract From £1995

The actual price you will pay for lens replacement surgery will depend on the type of lens that is inserted into your eye, with premium lenses that allow you to focus clearly at more than one distance (such as multifocal and trifocal lenses) costing the most. When comparing the cost of lens replacement surgery at different clinics, it is therefore important that you ensure that the prices are quoted for the same lens model in order to make the comparison fair.

Finance Options For Lens Replacement Surgery

With prices for lens replacement surgery starting from as much as £2,495 per eye, the majority of clinics now offer finance packages to help you pay for the surgery by spreading the cost over a pre-agreed period of time.

Finance deals like this usually require an initial deposit to be paid upfront before the surgery can take place. Following the surgery, you will then have to pay a fixed sum of money over a set period of months to pay off the remaining balance.

As with most finance agreements, the longer the period you plan to spread paying back the cost of your surgery, the more likely it will be that you will have to pay interest on each monthly instalment. This will increase the overall cost of your surgery.

The table below provides you with some examples of the finance options available for the different types of lens replacement surgery at 12, 24 and 36 months based on packages offered by eye surgery clinics in the UK. Finance deals are also available over 10, 48 and 72 months at most well-known clinics.

Lens Replacement Surgery Type Deposit 12 Months 24 Months 36 Months
Implantable Contact Lens (ICL) £500 0% APR at £166 11.5% APR at £116.21 11.5% APR at £51.49
Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE) £500 0% APR at £262.12 11.5% APR at £69.63 11.5% APR at £48.49
Cataract £500 0% APR at £207.91 11.5% APR at £69.63 11.5% APR at £48.49

Lens Replacement Surgery On The NHS

The NHS refuse to fund ICL surgery or RLE surgery. This is because these procedures are used to treat individuals with refractive errors such as myopia (short-sightedness) and hyperopia (long-sightedness) which can be successfully corrected without the need for surgery, using prescription glasses or contact lenses. If you are considering having either ICL surgery or RLE surgery, you will have to pay for the treatment yourself at a private clinic.

The NHS do offer cataract surgery however, but only for those whose cataracts are severely disrupting their ability to carry out everyday tasks, such as reading and driving. You should make an appointment to visit your optician or doctor for a referral to your local NHS eye hospital. If your cataracts are only mild, you will need to wait for them to worsen over time in order to qualify for surgery on the NHS.

The Procedure

lens replacement surgery

Lens replacement surgery takes approximately 15 to 30 minutes to complete. Unless a complication arises, the procedure is carried out on an outpatient basis because the surgery only requires a local anaesthetic to be administered. This means that you can return home shortly after the treatment and do not need to stay in the clinic overnight for monitoring.

Your eyes will be operated on separately, with usually a gap of 1 to 2 weeks between each surgery. This is to give your first eye time to heal and for your vision to stabilize. Your eye with the most visual impairment will be operated on first.

Prior to surgery, you will be given anaesthetic eye drops to numb your eye and its surrounding tissue. You may also be given a mild sedative to help you to relax and prevent you from moving during the surgery.

The surgeon will make a small incision on your cornea (the clear, front part of your eye). During RLE surgery and cataract surgery, your eye’s natural lens will be removed through the incision and replaced with an IOL. An ultrasound scan of your eye will help to reveal the location of your natural lens before the artificial lens is fitted. During ICL surgery, your eye’s natural lens will not be removed and instead a phakic IOL will simply be placed in front of it through the incision.

Following surgery you will be unable to drive, so you should arrange for someone to collect you from the clinic and take you home. You will be given a plastic shield to wear over the eye that was operated on which you will need to wear for the first day after surgery and at nights for at least a week to prevent you from touching or rubbing your eye while sleeping. You will also be given anti-inflammatory eye drops which you must use several times a day in the first week following surgery to prevent inflammation.

Recovery times for lens replacement surgery are very short, with most people noticing an improvement in their vision a few days after surgery. For most, optimum vision will be achieved up to 4 to 6 weeks post-operation.

To ensure the best recovery, you should follow any post-operative instructions that your surgeon gives you. These are often provided in a hand-out which you can take away with you, or accessed online via the clinic’s website. You should ensure that you have asked your surgeon any questions that you have about lens replacement surgery before undergoing the procedure.

Lens Replacement Surgery Risks

Lens replacement surgery is extremely safe and has very high success rates, with up to 88% of patients achieving 20/20 vision. However like any operation, it does have some risks which you must be aware of and consider carefully before deciding to have the treatment.

There are some temporary, minor side effects which most patients report experiencing after the surgery. These include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Halos forming around bright lights, such as vehicle headlights
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sore and itchy eyes

These side effects can last for several weeks, although they often do not require medical attention or treatment.

Apart from some common short term side effects, there is a small risk of developing a serious complication as a result of lens replacement surgery. These include:

  • Eye infection: this can cause painful, red eyes with discharge. If left untreated, some types of infection can cause permanent damage to your eyesight, however they are often easily treated with a course of antibiotic eye drops.

  • Posterior capsule opacification (PCO): this can result from RLE and cataract surgery. PCO occurs when parts of the eye’s natural lens have not been properly removed, causing your eye to attempt to regrow the lens around the newly inserted IOL. This can cause your vision to become hazy, but it can be treated easily with laser eye surgery.

  • Retinal detachment: this occurs when the retina at the back of the eye begins to pull away from the blood vessels that supply it with oxygen and nutrients, causing blurred and distorted vision. If left untreated, it can lead to blindness. Surgery can correct retinal detachment, although some people’s eyesight is not fully restored and they may experience a permanent loss of central or periphery vision.

If you think that you are experiencing a serious medical condition as a result of lens replacement surgery, you should seek medical attention immediately from your GP or ophthalmologist. They will be able to carry out a thorough examination of your eyes and put you on an appropriate treatment plan.

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