Implantable contact lenses (ICLs), also known as phakic IOLs, correct vision in much the same way that external contact lenses do, except ICLs are placed inside the eye where they permanently improve vision. ICLs are also similar to intraocular lenses which are used during cataract surgery to replace the eye's natural lens. However, during ICL surgery, the natural lens is kept in the eye and works with the implanted lens to correct vision. Permanent contact lenses give those who are not candidates for laser vision correction an option for permanent vision correction.
Implantable contact lenses are inserted through a small incision in the cornea and placed behind the iris and in front of the natural lens. These thin, pliable lenses can be an alternative to laser eye surgery and are used to correct conditions that laser surgery may be unable to correct, such as extreme myopia (nearsightedness). The ICL procedure is virtually pain free and has a 95 percent success rate.
Because of a high degree of myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness), a person may not be a good LASIK candidate. One of the main benefits of implantable contact lenses is their ability to correct severe degrees of refractive errors. Other benefits of implantable contact lenses include a proven record of safety, effective results, and the convenience of not having to rely on glasses and contacts.
As with any surgical procedure, there are risks involved with implantable contact lenses; however, the occurrence of severe adverse effects is minimal. In most instances, the percentages of complications that developed with implantable contact lenses were lower than the same complications of intraocular lens surgery.
One of the greatest safety-related benefits of implantable contact lenses is the fact that, unlike LASIK eye surgery, the implantation of an ICL does not physically alter the cornea.
Both FDA-approved phakic IOLs have a proven track record for delivering amazing results. The benefits of the implantable contact lenses can be seen in the vision correction achieved after the procedure.
The clinical trial for the VerisyseTM phakic IOL noted that 92 percent of the ICL patients achieved 20/40 or better visual acuity without the use of corrective lenses. (20/40 is considered to be the standard vision necessary to obtain a driver's license.) Additionally, after three years, 44 percent of the trial participants had 20/20 vision.
In the Visian ICLTM clinical trial, 95 percent of participants achieved 20/40 or better vision. During the three-year follow-up, 59 percent of the ICL patients experienced 20/20 vision.
One of the most sought after benefits of implantable contact lenses is their convenience. Previously hindered by glasses and contacts, after ICL implantation patients are able to more thoroughly enjoy activities, especially water sports like swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
With a reduced dependence on corrective eyewear, ICL patients experience a freedom from the clutter of contact lens solutions and supplies and also from the burden of having to keep track of their glasses.
Unlike traditional contact lenses, implantable contact lenses are protected from normal wear and tear. The ICLs are also protected from dust and dirt, which can cause dryness in traditional contacts.
Patients also enjoy the convenience of the procedure's reversibility. They feel more comfortable undergoing the surgical procedure knowing that they are not permanently altering their corneal tissue.
The FDA-approved implantable contact lenses are currently available in the United States to treat a wide range of myopia (nearsightedness). Any patient interested in a refractive vision correction procedure for nearsightedness has the potential of being a good candidate for implantable contact lenses. The procedure allows patients a freedom from the eyeglasses and contact lenses that they use to correct myopia. The implantable contact lens refractive procedure is ideal for patients with severe myopia, with dry eye syndrome, or with other contraindications that do not make them good LASIK candidates.
There are general requirements to be a good ICL candidate. Patients who seem to benefit the most from implantable contact lenses include those who:
- Are over 21 years of age. (It is often recommended that patients over 45 do not have the ICL procedure.)
- Have mild, moderate, or severe myopia. (In general, implantable contact lenses can correct up to -20D of myopia, however the exact treatment range varies between the Visian ICLTM and the VerisyseTM phakic IOL.)
- Have minor or no occurrence of astigmatism. (Currently approved implantable contact lenses can treat up to 2.5 diopters of astigmatism. A toric implantable contact lens - which could treat astigmatism - is pending FDA approval.)
- Have had an unchanging vision correction prescription for at least six months. (Length of stable vision history varies by lens.)
- Are not currently pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Have proper anterior chamber depth. (Varies slightly between VerisyseTM phakic IOL and Visian ICLTM. The ophthalmologist will determine chamber depth during comprehensive eye test.)
- Are not good candidates for LASIK. (Patients with dry eyes, severe myopia, thin corneas, and some of the other contraindications for LASIK may be eligible for implantable contact lenses.)
The VerisyseTM phakic intraocular lens is often an option for those with moderate to severe myopia who are not candidates for LASIK. Unlike other ICLs, the VerisyseTM lens is placed in front of the iris, and the natural lens is left in the eye, allowing for uninterrupted focusing ability.
The Visian ICLTM is made from Collamer®, a collagen co-polymer, specially designed for biocompatibility by STAAR® Surgical. The Visian ICLTM is foldable, allowing for insertion through a very small incision. It is placed behind the iris and works with the existing natural lens to correct vision.
The ICL Procedure
The outpatient procedure to place implantable contact lenses is performed in less than 30 minutes, recovery time is relatively short, and pain is minor. The lens is placed in front of the eye's natural lens through a small incision in the cornea. Improved vision is often noticed the same day as surgery, and patients fully heal within a month. Learn more about the ICL eye surgery procedure.
No surgical procedure is without risk, however, rarely do patients experience complications with implantable contact lenses. When complications do occur, they are typically minor.
The cost of implantable contact lenses depends greatly on the surgeon you choose and the area of the country in which your procedure is performed. In general, it costs several thousand dollars per eye for the surgery. However, many ophthalmologists offer financing plans to help you pay for the procedure
Find a Doctor
If you are not a candidate for LASIK, implantable contact lenses now offer you a permanent vision correction method. It is important to find an experienced surgeon for your ICL procedure. Through DocShop, you can find an ophthalmologist in your area who is experienced in ICL surgery.