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Implantable Contact Lenses

Also known as Implantable Collamer Lenses, ICLs

Implantable Contact Lenses (ICLs) are soft, flexible lenses typically used to permanently correct short-sightedness and astigmatism. The lens is implanted into the eye and works with the natural lens to improve vision in much the same way as a standard contact lens does, potentially providing permanent freedom from glasses.

Am I eligible for ICL?

In order to be eligible for the procedure will need to be aged between 21 and 45. Younger than 21 and there is a chance that you eyes are still growing which could lead to complications farther down the line. Any older than 45 and the lens could potentially speed up the onset of cataracts. It is also important that you have had a stable glasses prescription for at least a year. Any dramatic fluctuations in the prescription could lead to the failure of the procedure. Typically, ICLs are recommended for those who have moderate to severe short-sightedness. For those with mild short-sightedness, ICLs may cause an ‘over-correction’ of a person’s eyesight and are therefore unlikely to be suitable.

You should also be aware that there are certain factors that would make you ineligible for ICL surgery.

  • Pregnancy: The shape of the cornea temporarily changes whilst pregnant, making it difficult to judge what prescription you will require in the future.
  • Diabetes:If poorly controlled, diabetes can lead to significant changes in a persons’ eyesight.
  • Immune deficiencies: Conditions such as Lupus or HIV/AIDS could result in poor healing and an increased risk of infection.
  • History of the herpes simplex or Zorster eye infections: There is a risk that the procedure could ‘reactivate’ the infection.
  • Other eye condition: If you have glaucoma or macular degeneration the procedure is far less likely to be successful.

The benefits of ICL

ICLs are an excellent alternative for those who are not suitable candidates for laser eye surgery  or Refractive Lens Exchange as the procedure offers the same excellent visual results. Advantages include:

  • Unlike Refractive Lens Exchange, the eye’s natural lens is left in place and works in conjunction with the artificial lens to correct vision.
  • Unlike laser eye surgery there are no permanent alterations to the structure of the eye. ICLs can be removed easily if needed.
  • Vision improves appreciably in a shorter period of time following ICL surgery than after LASIK.
  • ICL surgery is less likely to result in dry eyes than with LASIK.
  • Invisible to the naked eye.

The lenses

There are two main types of lens used in ICL surgery. The Visian ICL (STAAR Surgical) is made from a bio-material called Collamer which the body doesn’t identify as ‘foreign,’ allowing the lens to be accepted by the surrounding tissue. The flexible nature of the material also means that it can be folded and inserted through a very small incision, reducing the risk of infection. Once in the eye, the lens unfolds into place behind the iris.

Unlike other ICLs, the Verisyes Phakic ICL (Abbott Optics)is placed in front of the iris, allowing the eye to make smoother transitions between focal objects. This lens is made from sterile polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), a rigid, clear plastic.

Your ophthalmologist will advise you which lens will best suit your individual needs.

What to expect on the day of the procedure

  • BeforeBefore the procedure your eyes will be measured to determine the required lens prescription strength. Anaesthetic drops will be applied to numb the area and you are likely to be given a mild sedative.
  • DuringThe procedure itself is very quick, usually no more than 20 minutes, and will be done on an outpatient basis. Each eye will be done on different days, typically a week apart.  The lens is folded into a cartridge and implanted through a small incision and rotated into the correct position. The incision is so small it rarely requires sutures as it will heal itself naturally but you will be given antibiotic eye drops to help prevent infection and pain relief to ease discomfort whilst the eye is healing.
  • AfterYou will need to rest at the centre for a couple of hours after the procedure to allow the sedative to wear off, and you should arrange for someone to take you home, as you will not be permitted to drive. You will be advised to avoid lifting heavy objects and told not to get soapy or unclean water in the eye until it has fully healed.

How quickly will I see results?

You are likely to see an almost immediate improvement in your eyesight and it should only take a couple of days for your eyes to heal. In many cases, you will be permitted to drive and return to work the day following the procedure.

How much will ICL surgery cost?

ICL is a more expensive procedure than laser eye surgery and you should expect to pay somewhere between £1200 and £3000 per eye. Although it is not the cheapest option, it is a permanent procedure so you may choose to view it as an investment in your future eyesight. Get a few quotes and choose an ophthalmologist with plenty of experience and someone you feel comfortable with.

Possible side effect & complications

As with any form of surgery there are some possible side effects. Although are generally mild and easily corrected you should be aware of them prior to proceeding.

  • Infection: During any surgery there is a slight risk of infection but it can usually be treated with antibiotics and is unlikely to be severe.
  • Intraocular pressure: This refers to increased pressure in the eye. As long as it is recognised quickly, it is usually straightforward to treat.
  • Lens reposition: Sometimes the lens shifts slightly out of position and will need to be moved. This can be done, just like the original surgery, as a quick outpatient procedure.
  • Damage to the eye’s natural lens: On rare occasions the eye’s natural lens is damaged during the procedure. If the damage is severe enough, it may be replaced by another artificial lens.
  • Cataracts: A link has been discovered between the implantation of ICLs and the early onset of cataracts. If this happens you will be offered cataract surgery, a simple procedure that replaces the eye’s natural lens with an artificial one.
  • Visual aberrations: With the implantation of any lens there is a slight risk of increased glare and halos. However, the newer models of lenses significantly reduce this risk.
  • Retinal detachment: In a small percentage of patients, less than 1%, retinal detachment may occur. This is a condition where small tears in the retina lead to it detaching from the eye. When this happens patients are likely to experience flashes of light and floaters (small shapes that can be seen ‘floating’ in your field of vision). This can be corrected surgically and, as long as it is diagnosed promptly, should not lead to any permanent problems.

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