Cataract & Refractive Lens Exchange Surgery FAQs

Below is a list of questions commonly asked by people considering Cataract or Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE) surgery. Click on the question below to link directly to the answer. Use your browser’s “Back” button to return to the list of questions. If you are unable to find an answer to your specific question here or elsewhere on the site, please call +1 (800) 573-1010 or email us. We will be happy to respond directly to you.

What Do I Need to Know Before Cataract or RLE Surgery?

A cataract is usually the result of the natural aging process. As you get older, the natural lens, located behind the iris in your eye, may gradually begin to get “cloudy” and interfere with light and images getting to your retina. As the lens becomes cloudier, your vision slowly becomes more blurred. If allowed to remain, the cataract will progress to the point where there will be a complete loss of vision in your eye. Surgery is the only way to remove a cataract.

You may be a candidate for RLE surgery if you:

  • are over the age of 45 and having difficulty focusing on objects up close
  • do not qualify for laser vision correction, such as LASIK, because you are either too farsighted or too nearsighted
  • are tired of wearing bifocals or progressives lenses for both reading and distance vision
  • night vision, impaired depth perception and increased color distortion


You may be a candidate for Cataract surgery if you:

  • are diagnosed with a visually significant cataract condition and
  • are noticing decreased night vision, impaired depth perception and increased color distortion

RLE and Cataract surgery are essentially the same procedure. In both instances, the natural lens of your eye is removed through a small incision made in the iris of your eye and replaced by a man-made lens that is designed to remain permanently. The only difference is that RLE is a totally elective procedure performed to decrease the need for glasses; removing the cataract in Cataract surgery is performed for medical reasons (for example, adequate vision cannot be achieved with glasses).

As with any surgery, there are certain risks. Fortunately, the risks of RLE and Cataract surgery are low and patient satisfaction is high.

It’s possible that some nearsightedness or farsightedness will remain after surgery. This can be treated by replacing the artificial lens with one of a different power or by laser vision correction that can fine-tune the result. Increased glare or halos around light at night can also result, although these tend to diminish over time. Twenty percent of patients will develop hazy or cloudy vision over time that requires a further, non-invasive laser procedure to fix.

Side effects are minimal. Most patients experience some temporary blurring for a few days and can also expect increased light sensitivity for a few weeks. Depending upon the lens used, you may experience halos or rings around lights and glare at night. These side effects may make it more difficult to see while driving at night or to complete tasks in a room with low lighting.

Traditionally, lenses used in Cataract surgery have been monofocal, allowing the user to see well at a single distance. Patients with monofocal lenses usually choose to have their natural lenses replaced with lenses that allow them to see well at distance and wear reading glasses for up close or intermediate work. Recent advancements, however, have resulted in multifocal and Advanced Lifestyle Lenses or accommodating lens implants. Multifocal lenses contain concentric rings that provide focus at different distances. Accommodating lenses bend and steepen as the eye changes focal points. These new lenses allow the patient to focus at different distances, giving good distance vision, plus improving intermediate or near vision.

As compared to the monofocal lenses that have been used in Cataract surgery for decades, multifocal lenses are relatively new. Multifocal lenses have been implanted since the mid-1990s with excellent results.

RLE surgery is an elective procedure not covered by insurance companies. It is more expensive than laser vision correction because it must be performed in an ambulatory surgical center. Since Cataract surgery is a medical procedure, private insurance companies, as well as Medicare, will pay for the surgery and the implantation of a monofocal lens. If you choose an Advanced Lifestyle Lens, however, you will have to pay for the additional cost of the lens upgrade.

Your employer’s flexible spending or cafeteria plan may offer tax advantages for RLE or Cataract surgery upgrades. We can help you understand your options and what questions to ask your benefits administrator. In addition, Furlong Vision Correction offers several different payment options to help make RLE surgery and lens upgrade fit your budget.

Astigmatism is caused by an irregularly shaped cornea and is not affected by replacing the lens. If you are a cataract patient who has astigmatism that is affecting the quality of your vision, you have several treatment options, including a LASIK or PRK procedure twelve to twenty-four weeks after RLE Cataract surgery. There are a few intraocular lenses that have been introduced recently to help correct astigmatism, including the Toric Accommodating and Multifocal IOL lens options. Additionally, astigmatism can be treated with the Femto laser during surgery. This technology is ideally suited to treat patients who have cataracts as well as astigmatism, a non-spherical curvature of the cornea. Astigmatism can be partially managed at the time of surgery using either laser-assisted corneal incisions or through the implantation of the Toric intraocular lenses. As this procedure must be precise, the laser is used for the creation of a perfectly round surgical opening, which is critical for the best possible outcome.

Whether using an accommodating intraocular lens to treat astigmatism or using an multifocal intraocular lens to allow both clear distance and near vision, only Laser-Assisted Cataract surgery can consistently create a perfectly round surgical incision to ensure ideal placement of the lens implant. This specialized surgery’s results are improved vision, decreased dependence on eyeglasses, faster recovery and less discomfort.

What Can I Expect During Cataract or RLE Surgery?

RLE and Cataract surgery takes about fifteen minutes. You’ll need to plan to be at the surgery center for approximately two to three hours, however, to accommodate the pre-op preparation and post-op recovery period. You will need to arrange to have someone drive you home after the procedure.

Patients experience virtually no discomfort during RLE or Cataract surgery. The procedure is performed under a local or topical anesthesia (eye drop to numb the eye) and you are given a relaxing sedative intravenously. Mild irritation symptoms for the first twenty four hours are typical. If you experience this, you may use Tylenol or ibuprofen during the first day or two after the procedure.

What Can I Expect After Cataract or RLE Surgery?

Whether you will need to wear glasses or contacts after your procedure depends on which type of lens you choose to implant. Patients who choose to implant monofocal lenses will have to wear glasses for either distance or up close work, since monofocal lenses are designed to focus only at one distance. Patients who choose to implant multifocal lenses will have a broader range of vision. According to national clinical trial results for patients who chose Advanced Lifestyle Lenses, seventy five percent never needed to wear glasses again and those who still wore glasses occasionally did not need to wear them eighty percent of the time.

Dr. Furlong’s current clinical results show 100% of patients who had Advanced Wavefront LASIK surgery achieve 20/40 vision or better. Even more impressive is that 98% of patients obtain 20/20 vision or better and 65% of patients achieve 20/15 vision or better. Of course, your individual results may vary depending upon your pre-surgical prescription and the condition of your eyes. Dr. Furlong can provide more information regarding your potential outcome after he examines your eyes.

You will be given a plastic shield to wear immediately after surgery and for the next five nights to protect your eyes while sleeping. For the first month, care should be taken to not touch your eyes for any reason and patients should avoid getting sweat, dust or smoke in their eyes. It is also better to avoid swimming for two weeks, but with care, there is usually no problem with showers.

As the lens capsule closes around the new lens implant, the focusing range may change requiring a second surgical procedure to adjust or replace the lens. Additionally, laser surgery to improve the focus is also possible.

A cataract is the clouding of the natural lens of your eye. Since RLE surgery removes that clear lens and replaces it with an artificial one, you will never get a cataract.