ReLACS is used to treat cataracts and provide patients with immediate relief. This alternative to traditional cataract surgery can create more precise incisions than older alternatives allowing for quicker recovery.
What is a Cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the eye lens which can seriously impair one’s vision. Of all the Americans over 65 years of age it is estimated that over half have cataracts. Think of the eye as functioning like a camera. Light enters the eye and passes through the cornea, the pupil and reaches the lens. The job of the lens is to bend the rays of light in a way that allows the eye to focus objects onto the retina in the back of the eye.
Images are then passed through the cells of the retina to the optic nerve which sends it on to the brain to process the images. Cataracts occur when there is a buildup of protein in the lens which prevents light from passing cleanly through the lens. This makes the view very cloudy. As new lens cells form on the outer portions of the lens, the older cells begin to compact into the center which causes the development of a cataract.
What is ReLACS?
ReLACS is an acronym which stands for Refractive Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery. ReLACS uses a laser to make the incision and remove cataracts. The laser uses a precise femtosecond laser; that is one millionth of a billionth of a second fast. It is very similar to the type of laser used in the popular LASIK surgical procedures.
The laser is used in conjunction with an image-guided computer program which allows the surgeon to be more precise and helps tailor each patient’s treatment to their particular needs as well as the preferences of the surgeon.
The surgeon is able to fully customize each surgical procedure to the specific needs of the patient. He will create incisions in the cornea, open up the capsule where the lens is located and break up the cloudy lens much more accurately than what could be done by hand.
What is the difference between ReLACS and traditional cataract surgery?
Traditionally, cataract surgery was performed by hand. The surgeon would make an incision through which he would remove the cataract using surgical instruments or blades. ReLACS uses a laser to perform some of the most critical steps in the surgical process. The surgeon makes the incision and repairs using an “image-guided femtosecond laser.” Using this type of highly technical surgical equipment offers the patient more precision and safety along with improvements in accuracy.
Benefits of ReLACS
Perhaps the most important benefit one will receive from ReLACS is clear vision. Along with that there are some other added benefits such as:
- Shortened recovery times
- Eliminate glasses or contact lenses
- Quick Procedure(about 10 to 15 minutes)
- Efficient pre and post-operative care (2-3 hours)
Preparing for the Recovery Process
After the surgical procedure, the surgeon will provide a lightweight protective shield over the eyes. This helps to decrease the likelihood of injury from rubbing your eyes. You will also have some dark sunglasses to wear to protect your eyes on the ride home. For the rest of the day you will most likely want to participate in just light activities such as reading, watching TV and maybe walking.
The day after the surgery you’ll have a follow-up appointment with the surgeon. For a few weeks, patients sometimes experience a little glare or halo around lights but these should subside over time. Most patients can return to work and normal activities within one week following the procedure. The eye(s) should be totally clear within two to three months following the surgery.
Is ReLACS covered by insurance?
For most insurance companies, ReLACS is still considered a premium service and it is not covered. However, some policies include it, or will help with some of the cost. It’s important to check with your insurance company to see how much, if any will need to be paid out of pocket. Most patients feel like it is worth the investment because of the visual benefits and the freedom it brings.