Implantable contact lenses are a reversible alternative to laser eye surgery.
Since ICL surgery was developed to treat common refractive errors more than 450,000 ICLs have been implanted around the world.
The procedure is often recommended for those who do not qualify for laser eye surgery. Patients with thin or irregularly shaped corneas can still be eligible for ICL surgery.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about ICL eye surgery.
What is ICL surgery?
ICL stands for implantable contact lens or implantable collamer lens. ICL surgery is a method of implanting these lenses into the eye to treat common refractive errors. ICLs can be used to correct short-sightedness, long-sightedness and astigmatism.
ICLs are a form of IOLs or intraocular lenses. They are placed directly into the eye either between the cornea and the iris or behind the iris. When successful, these lenses allow people to see clearly without glasses or contact lenses. ICLs can last a lifetime and do not require any maintenance other than regular check-ups with an ophthalmologist.
Unlike laser eye surgery, ICL surgery does not alter the structure of the eye and the lenses can be removed if necessary. ICLs are often recommended for patients whose thin or irregularly shaped corneas make them ineligible for LASIK and other methods of laser eye surgery. ICLs need to be custom made for every eye, making them more expensive than most laser eye surgery.
Laser eye surgery clinics offering ICL
Who can get an ICL?
ICL eye surgery can correct the following common errors within a certain range:
- Myopia (short-sightedness)
- Hyperopia (long-sightedness)
- Astigmatism (an imperfection in the eye’s curvature)
In addition to having one of the above refractive errors, to be eligible for ICL eye surgery, you must meet the following requirements:
- Be at least 18 to 20 years old
- Have a relatively stable glasses prescription for at least 12 months
- Not be pregnant or breastfeeding
- Have no active eye infections
- No history of eye scarring
- Have good general health including good overall eye health
How does ICL surgery work?
ICL surgery is a five-step procedure:
- First, the surgeon creates a custom implantable contact lens that is suited to your eye and refractive error.
- During the procedure, the surgeon makes an incision in your eye.
- Next, the surgeon implants the ICL directly into your eye.
- Depending on the type of lens used, the surgeon may use dissolvable stitches to close the wound.
- Finally, the surgeon will place an eye shield or bandage over your eye to protect it during healing.
What is Visian ICL?
Visian ICL and Visian Toric ICL are specific types of implantable contact lenses. The Visian ICL is made of a flexible material that can be folded and implanted through a small incision. This eliminates the need for stitches. Currently, the Visian ICL is able to treat myopia and astigmatism but has not been approved to treat hyperopia.
How much does ICL surgery cost?
ICL surgery in Australia generally costs $4,700-$6,200 per eye or $9,400 to $12,400 for both eyes. Implantable contact lenses are more expensive than other methods of corrective eye surgery because each lens has to be custom made. The price of your ICL surgery will depend on your location, the surgeon’s experience, the type of anaesthesia used, the shape of your eye and the type of implantable lens.
Surgeons may charge one up-front price that includes an initial consultation, testing, the cost of the lens and all follow-up appointments. Other surgeons will charge for each appointment, test and lens separately. It is important to ask your doctor or clinic about all costs involved in your surgery and if a payment plan is available.
What to expect during ICL surgery
ICL surgery is an outpatient procedure performed in a hospital or clinic. You should not wear contact lenses for at least one week before your procedure because they can alter the shape of your cornea and effect the ICL procedure.
Before your surgery, numbing eye drops will be applied to your eyes. Your surgeon may also give you a mild sedative or other medication to help you relax. Occasionally, doctors will perform the surgery under general anaesthesia.
During ICL surgery, the surgeon will use a speculum to keep your eyelids open. You should not feel pain as the lens is inserted, but you may feel some pressure. The procedure typically takes less than 30 minutes.
The surgeon will place a bandage or eye shield on your eye to help protect it during the first few days of healing. The surgeon will also usually prescribe antibiotic eye drops. You will not be able to drive after the procedure so make sure you organise a ride home. Many ICL patients take time off of work to rest and recover.
Many ICL patients notice an improvement in their vision shortly after surgery. Other patients experience blurred or hazy vision for a period of time. ICL patients also commonly report increased light sensitivity for a few days up to a week. Generally, ICL patients can expect their vision to stabilise within ten days to four weeks, depending on the type of lens used.
You may experience discomfort after ICL surgery, but most patients don’t report severe pain. Some people report feeling like something is stuck in their eye or their eye has been scratched. Your surgeon may prescribe pain medication to help you manage any pain you do have.
Your doctor will schedule multiple follow-up appointments to check on your healing progress. To help prevent infection or other complications, many doctors recommend avoiding the following activities while you are healing:
- Rubbing your eyes
- Wearing eye makeup
- Strenuous exercise
- Contact sports
- Driving (until your doctor has given approval)
Like every medical procedure, ICL surgery has certain risks. While the chance of complications is low, it is important to know all the possibilities before having surgery.
ICL eye surgery has the following potential side effects, complications and risks:
- Visual disturbances. Some ICL patients report distorted vision including glare, halos around light sources and hazy or blurry vision. These side-effects are especially common during the healing process and usually disappear when your vision stabilises.
- Lens complications. Your implantable contact lens could become damaged or dislodged if rubbed vigorously or if your eye is injured.
- Infection. While the risk of infection is low, doctors generally prescribe antibiotic or anti -inflammatory eye drops after ICL surgery. Your doctor will also check for signs of infection at each follow-up appointment.
- Pain. Minor pain and discomfort can usually be managed with pain medication. If you experience severe pain after your ICL surgery, you should inform your doctor right away.
- Retinal detachment. Retinal detachment is an emergency medical situation that can lead to blindness if left untreated. This occurs when the retina is separate from the underlying tissue and is usually caused by trauma or infection. According to studies, the risk of retinal detachment after ICL surgery is less than .32% and more than half of reported cases are due to eye trauma. While the risk of retinal detachment is low, you should report any visual changes to your doctor, especially if your vision suddenly worsens.
- Glaucoma. Glaucoma is increased eye pressure that can lead to permanent vision loss. Glaucoma is not curable but can be treated with medication to help control symptoms and slow vision loss. Although the odds of developing glaucoma due to ICL are low, the exact rates are unknown as those with high refractive errors already have a higher risk of developing glaucoma.
- Cataracts. Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye that can lead to vision loss and blindness if untreated. Cataracts can be removed with a commonly performed surgical procedure.
Implantable contact lenses are an effective method of treating refractive errors.
According to studies, 94.7% of ICL patients achieve 6/12 vision or better and 67% of ICL patients achieve perfect 6/6 vision. These results are generally considered to be permanent once vision has stabilised.
Occasionally, if your vision changes or the results are unsatisfactory, your surgeon can remove or replace your ICL. Otherwise, your ICL will not wear out or need to be replaced over time.
Most ICL patients no longer need glasses or contact lenses to see clearly after surgery. Some patients still require reading glasses.
ICL surgery vs LASIK?
LASIK eye surgery is the most popular method of refractive surgery in the world and can treat myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism. While some people may qualify for both ICL and LASIK, many will only be suited to one procedure or the other. Both methods are generally considered to be safe and have similar success rates. Learn more about LASIK in our comprehensive guide.
|LASIK eye surgery||