LASIK, plus all of its modern alternatives are among the safest, most effective surgical procedures ever known. There are millions of vision correction procedures performed around the world each year, yet patient satisfaction is somewhere north of 96 percent and complications are rare. In fact, after thousands of surgeries, the doctors at Brinton Vision have seen very few complications relating to this surgical procedure. So, is lens replacement surgery safe? You bet!
Although eye surgery is safe, it is not totally without the risk of complications. We would be remiss if we didn’t have a real discussion about the most common risks associated with refractive lens exchange (RLE) and other lens replacement procedures. But don’t fret—we’ll also give you easy ways to reduce your own chances of complications!
What are the most common RLE complications?
Procedures such as LASIK and PRK take place only on the surface of the eye to reshape the cornea and correct refractive errors. At Brinton Vision, these particular procedures are laser-based, further reducing direct human contact with the delicate ocular tissue. Naturally, this precision carries miniscule risk.
The placement of an intraocular lens (IOL) is a different animal. Due to the fact that this procedure involves removing the natural lens and replacing it with a manmade version, this is done manually by the surgeon and involves opening the eye, therefore, inherently creating more opportunities for complications.
Certain minor side effects are common after an IOL procedure. Most are not considered complications and are nothing to worry about. If ever concerned about your progress, please reach out to the Brinton Vision medical team to ensure your healing is on track. The common side effects following a lens replacement procedure include:
Vision fluctuations/disturbances. Most patients experience visual disturbances of some kind after lens replacement surgery—glares and halos, starbursts and blurred vision. Nighttime vision can be difficult in the first weeks with the new lenses but typically resolve over the first few months.. If the problem worsens or continues for longer than expected, consult with your experienced Brinton Vision doctor.
Eye irritation/Dryness. Most patients experience eye irritation and scratchiness following lens replacement. This can last a few days, a few weeks or even a few months, but it typically resolves over the course of time! Your doctor will provide you with multiple strategies, including eyedrops to ease symptoms and aid in healing.
Redness. Sometimes patients notice small, red blotches on the white part of their eyes after RLE. They can be unsightly—even scary-looking—but they are not dangerous. These will gradually fade over the course of approximately 7-10 days.
There is only slightly more risk with RLE than with PRK or LASIK, and most complications are not a direct result of the surgery itself. Patients who experience certain complications—difficulties that go beyond the usual side effects—should call their doctor for follow-up care. Some complications are as follows
- Dislocated intraocular lens
- Ptosis (droopy eyelid)
- Detached retina (most common in patients with high myopia)—symptoms include: increase/change in floaters, flashes of light, or curtain/veil in the vision
- Ocular hypertension (high eye pressure)—often no symptoms but the medical team will check you eye pressure at each post-operative visit
- Eye infection—redness, heat, swelling, oozing.
- Bleeding inside the eye
- Decreased vision—indicated by excessive or prolonged haziness. This is most often caused by a thickening of the tissue which holds the new IOL. This can be corrected easily with a non-invasive laser procedure.
Is Refractive Lens Exchange FDA approved?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a variety of important duties. First and foremost, this federal agency is responsible for the regulation of more than 6,000 medical devices used and sold in the United States. Additionally, the FDA conducts numerous trials to test the safety of medical devices and drugs, and grant approval for their use in patients.
The FDA is not responsible for approving medical procedures. In fact, there is currently no government or private entity that directly regulates or approves surgical procedures. However, the FDA does regulate the devices used in lens replacement, including the lenses, laser equipment, surgical supplies, medications, and more. The doctors, surgeons and medical staff must also work within the laws and regulations that govern all health care workers.
So, while refractive lens exchange (RLE) and other lens replacement procedures are not FDA-approved, everything involved with the lens procedure must meet their high standards and safety provisions.
How can I get the safest lens replacement experience?
Lens replacement is safe and effective for those who qualify, and complications are rare. However, it’s important to know that lens in general, the higher the refractive error—especially with myopia—the greater the risk of retinal detachment a patient naturally has. Other risks include swelling, inflammation, infection and visual disturbances such as glares and halos.
As with any surgical procedure, you can mitigate your own risk by following the detailed post-operative instructions given to you as you heal. The Brinton Vision medical staff will send you home with your post-surgical instructions plus medications you’ll need for proper healing. Instructions may include, but are not limited to:
- Take it easy while you heal: no weightlifting, core or body-weight exercises, judo, gymnastics or any other strenuous activity until you’re cleared to resume your regular (or new) workouts.
- Steer clear of dust, dirt and debris. If you can’t avoid these environments, wear protective goggles during the immediate post-operative period
- Stay away from any potentially dirty water including: lakes, rivers, streams, hot tubs or pools. This reduces the risk of infection. The only liquid that should hit your eyes right after vision correction surgery is the medicated eye drops prescribed by your doctor.
- DO NOT RUB YOUR EYES. This is never a good idea, but especially so during the healing process.
In the unlikely event that you develop an infection, retinal detachment or other complication, know that your Brinton Vision doctor is well equipped to diagnose, treat or provide referrals to ensure the best treatment from any complication you may experience. Vision loss from ocular surgery complications is very rare.
Want to know more about lens replacement benefits and risks? Call Brinton Vision at 314.375.2020 for more information.
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