Is Cataract Surgery the Same as Lens Replacement?

As we get older, it is more than just our skin and hair that begin to show the signs of ageing. Many things seem to get more difficult than they used to be – including being able to clearly distinguish the world around us.

The fact is, our eyes age just like the rest of our bodies, much to the detriment of our vision. Whether we find ourselves with presbyopia or cataracts in our middle age and later years, it is highly likely that every one of us will require some kind of intervention to keep our eyes performing as efficiently as possible. So, on that note, we’re taking a look at two of the most common refractive surgeries and asking the question: Is cataract surgery the same as lens replacement?

What happens to our eyes as we get older?

Our eyes can go through a number of changes as we get older. For example, some common changes include having trouble distinguishing between some colours (e.g., black from blue), needing more time to adjust to changing levels of light, and losing the ability to see up close.

Presbyopia (“Old Eye”)

The last of these is known as presbyopia – a refractive error that occurs as the lenses begin the lose some of their focusing power. As presbyopia (which translates literally to “old” or “ageing” eye) sets in, the most common early solution is the acquirement of reading glasses. However, alternative options, including Laser Eye Surgery, are available.


Cataracts are another normal part of the eye’s ageing process. These cloudy obstructions often begin to form in the eye’s lens at around the age of 40, although, thankfully, they usually do not begin to affect our vision for a number of years to come.

Cataracts are formed when the proteins in the eye’s natural lens begin to break down and clump together. Over time, this clumping makes the lens appear cloudy and can cause significant impairment to vision.

What’s the Solution?

While the development of cataracts can be frustrating and even scary, the good news is there’s a simple and effective solution: Cataract Surgery.

Cataract Surgery involves removing the natural lens and replacing it with an artificial lens. This artificial lens – known as an intraocular lens or IOL – can, in some cases, be specially selected to also correct any refractive error, such as long- or short-sightedness. In this way, premium IOLs work in much the same way as external contact lenses that are used for common refractive errors.

So, is Cataract Surgery the same as Lens Replacement or ‘Clear Lens Exchange‘ (CLE)?

Put simply, the procedure involved in Cataract Surgery and Lens Replacement or CLE is the same. That is, both involve replacing the eye’s natural lens with an artificial IOL. However, the significant difference between these two procedures is the condition of the natural lens being replaced.

In cataract surgery, the primary aim of the procedure is to remove the cataract and replace it with a clear lens. In Clear Lens Exchange (CLE) – also referred to as Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE) – the lens being replaced is healthy, and the IOL is being used to correct a refractive error such as long-sightedness (hyperopia) or short-sightedness (myopia).

Lens Replacement for Presbyopia

Lens Replacement/Clear Lens Exchange can also be used to correct Presbyopia. This can be an alternative to reading glasses and contact lenses and even Laser Eye Surgery.

Lens Exchange for Presbyopia works by implanting a Multifocal lens (MFIOL) in one eye, and an Extended Depth of Focus lens (EDoF) in the other eye. As a result, one eye will be more focused at near distances while the other will be more focused at long distances.

While this may be the most common solution for presbyopia in many clinics around the UK, at London Vision Clinic, we are able to offer PRESBYOND® Laser Blended Vision.

A word on PRESBYOND® Laser Blended Vision

This revolutionary Laser Eye Surgery treatment was first made available at our Harley Street clinic and was pioneered by our very own founder, Professor Dan Reinstein. PRESBYOND® Laser Blended Vision uses the same approach as Lens Exchange for Presbyopia; however, instead of replacing the natural lenses, each eye is corrected using a high-precision laser.

This method can significantly reduce – or even eliminate – the need for reading glasses, bifocals, or varifocals for many years. What’s more, if your vision changes in the years to come, a simple non-invasive follow-up procedure can often improve your vision once again.

The Bottom Line

To sum up, there are a lot of similarities between Cataract Surgery and “Lens Replacement”. But despite using the same procedure, they are each employed at different times and for different reasons.

Lens Replacement or Clear Lens Exchange (CLE) is often viewed as an alternative to Laser Eye Surgery and may be offered to patients who are not suitable for Laser procedures. On the other hand, Cataract Surgery is the only solution to cataracts.

If you would like to learn more about Cataract Surgery or Lens Replacement at London Vision Clinic, get in touch with one of our friendly clinic coordinators. Alternatively, to start your journey to clearer vision, Book a Consultation today.