What Is An Implantable Contact Lens (ICL)?
An implantable contact lens (ICL), often referred to as a phakic intraocular lens, is a clear artificial lens made of plastic that is used to correct moderate to severe myopia (nearsightdness). For those with mild nearsightedness, ICLs may cause an ‘over-correction’ of your vision problem and so are not deemed appropriate. ICL surgery is carried out in patients who are not appropriate for laser eye surgery, but who no longer want to continue to wear glasses or contact lenses.
ICLs function like contact lenses, except that ICLs work from within your eye rather than sitting on the surface of the eye. An ICL is surgically placed into the eye between your cornea and iris, or just behind the iris, without removing your eye’s natural lens. Once in the eye, an ICL cannot be felt or seen, and is designed to last for a lifetime. If problems with the ICL do occur, it can be easily removed and replaced without causing permanent damage to the eye.
85% of patients who have no other eye problem are able to see with 20/20 vision after ICL surgery, while 95% can see to driving standard or better.
Am I Eligible for ICL Surgery?
There are certain requirements that must be met in order for you to qualify for ICL surgery. Your ophthalmologist will assess your ocular and overall health, and will deem you an eligible candidate for the surgery if you:
- Are between 21 and 45 years old. If you are younger than 21 there is a chance that your eyes are still growing ICL surgery could lead to complications with your eyesight further down the line. If you are older than 45, ICLs could speed up the onset of cataracts.
- Have had an unchanging eyesight prescription for a minimum of 12 months.
- Have corneas which are too thin for laser eye surgery.
- Have a healthy eye with no significant eye disease such as glaucoma.
- Have a good general health.
- Are not allergic to anaesthetic eye drops used in the surgery.
You will not be an eligible candidate for the surgery if you:
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Have diabetes, hepatitis C or herpes virus.
- Suffer from an autoimmune disease such as lupus or HIV.
- Have experienced serious eye trauma or retinal detachment.
- Are taking immunosuppressant drugs.
Types of Lens: Visian Vs Verisyse
There are two main types of phakik intraocular lens used in ICL surgery to correct moderate to severe myopia:
- Visian: this lens is made from flexible collamer, a bio-material that the human body does not identify as a foreign body, therefore allowing the surrounding tissue to accept it more easily. Once inserted into the eye, it sits behind the iris and in front of the eye’s natural lens. It helps you enjoy sharper, clearer and more vivid vision, with greater depth and dimension.
- Verisyse: this lens is made from a rigid plastic called polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), and is inserted into the eye where it is placed in front of the iris rather than behind it. This allows the eye to make much smoother modifications between objects.
Both visian and verisyse lenses eliminate the need for you to wear glasses following surgery.
ICL Surgery Price
The average cost of ICL surgery in the UK is around £3,000 per eye. The table below compares the price of ICL surgery from some of the best eye surgery clinics in the UK:
|Clinic||Price Per Eye|
|Advanced Vision Care||From £3350|
|Centre for Sight||From £2975|
|Optical Express||From £2995|
The price you will pay for ICL surgery will vary from clinic to clinic. This can be down to a number of factors, including:
- The experience of the surgeon: the more experienced a surgeon, the higher the fee they will be able to charge. Those who are members of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists will have carried out in excess of 300 surgeries.
- The size of the clinic: larger clinics are often able to see a higher number of patients, meaning they can squeeze profit margins and offer lower prices than smaller clinics.
- The competition: in urban areas where there is a greater number of clinics, competition can lead to more competitive and cheaper prices.
It is important to check exactly what is included in the advertised price and what isn’t, as some clinics do not include essential services such as consultations and aftercare in the initial quote. These additional costs can quickly add up, meaning the actual amount you will pay for ICL surgery can be more than you had anticipated. We recommend that you shop around various clinics to get the best price for your budget.
The price of ICL surgery is also influenced by the type of lens that is inserted into your eye. The table below shows the price you should expect to pay for visian and verisyse lenses. As you can see, verisyse lenses are more expensive which will drive up the cost of your ICL surgery.
|Type Of Lens||Price Per Eye|
Can I Get ICL Surgery On Finance?
ICL surgery is available on finance at many of the leading eye surgery clinics in the UK. For many, finance packages which allow you to pay an initial deposit followed by small monthly payments over a pre-agreed time, are the only way that they can afford to undergo the surgery since it allows you to spread the cost of the procedure rather than needing to find the full cost up front.
The table below shows the finance deals available for ICL surgery at different eye surgery clinics:
|Clinic||Deposit||Shortest Payback Period||Longest Payback Period|
|Advanced Vision Care||£1250 to £1900||Quote available on request||0% APR x 18 months = £116.67 per month|
|Accuvision||£500||Quote available on request||Quote available on request|
|Centre for Sight||£910||0% APR x 12 months = £86 per month||0% APR x 24 months = £86 per month|
|Optegra||£349.50 to £699||0% APR x 12 months = £262.12 per month||9.9% APR x 48 months = £58.24 per month|
|Optical Express||£500||0% APR x 10 months = £249.50 per month||11.5% APR x 72 months = £47.39 per month|
|Optimax||£500||0% APR x 12 months = £51.49 per month||11.5% APR x 48 months = £64.40 per month|
|Ultralase||£1000||Quote available on request||Quote available on request|
When making the decision to use finance options for your surgery, there are a few factors you should take into consideration:
- An initial deposit is typically 10% of the overall price of your surgery. Since ICL surgery is a significant investment, it is important to make sure you have enough money to cover the deposit.
- Monthly payments have a fixed interest rate. Whilst this is typically 0% for the shortest payback period meaning you only pay back the cost of your surgery, it increases significantly the longer the payback period meaning you will pay back more than the cost of your surgery.
- Your credit score can be affected by paying for things on credit, so it is important that you keep up with your payments. If you default on any payments you may find it difficult to enter into any financial deals in the future.
- Read the terms and conditions of your finance agreement carefully to make sure you avoid any nasty surprises.
Can I Get ICL Surgery On The NHS?
The NHS only offers eye surgery to individuals who suffer from serious vision problems such as cataracts, that could lead to blindness if left untreated. Free eye surgery on the NHS is not available for conditions such which can be corrected with glasses or contact lenses, such as myopia. This means that you will have to undergo ICL surgery at a private clinic, and pay for the procedure yourself.
ICL Surgery Procedure
- Your eyes will be measured to determine your eye’s prescription. If you wear contact lenses you will need to stop wearing them at least one week before your pre-operative consultation, since they can alter the shape of your cornea and so make your prescription reading less accurate.
- One week before surgery you may undergo a laser iridotomy on each eye. This procedure creates a small opening on your iris to stimulate fluid circulation, minimizing the risk of intraocular pressure following the surgery.
- The surgery takes around 20 minutes to complete.
- Only one eye will be operated on at a time, with approximately a week’s gap between the surgery on either eye.
- You will be given a mild sedative and anaesthetic eye drops which will make your eye numb to minimize discomfort.
- The surgeon will make a small incision on the edge of your cornea.
- The lens will be implanted into your eye and will be rotated it into the right position.
- Typically the incision on your eye will be left to heal naturally, although tiny dissolvable stitches may be used.
- You will need to remain at the clinic for a few hours to allow the effects of the sedative to lessen.
- You will be provided with antibiotic eye drops to use as a pain relief, and to also help reduce the risk of infection.
- You should experience an almost instant improvement, and healing should take just a few days
- You may experience some temporary discomfort after surgery, such as blurred vision, halos and glare. You may also have an increased sensitivity to light.
- You are not permitted to drive immediately after surgery, so you will need to arrange for a lift home.
- You should be able to return to work within a week of surgery.
For the best recovery, you should carefully follow all instructions given to you by the clinic after surgery. These will be provided in a hand out which you can take home with you.
Is There Anything I Should Avoid After Surgery?
Following ICL surgery, there are some tasks that you should avoid in order to ensure the best recovery possible. Some are listed below:
- Avoid touching your eyes, or getting sweat, dust, dirty water and smoke in them for approximately a month as this could cause infection.
- Avoid swimming for at least a month.
- Avoid any heavy lifting or intense exercise as this can cause overexertion which can lead to a rise in blood pressure, which can affect your recovery.
- Avoid watching too much television or using your coputer frequently as this can cause eye fatigue.
- Avoid driving for at least two weeks.
ICL Surgery Side Effects
Whilst ICL surgery is extremely safe, any surgery carries the risk of side effects occurring. Some are more common than others but you should know all the risks before undergoing the procedure.
Here Mr Mr Ali Mearza, Clinical Director of Ophthalmology and lead consultant ophthalmologist at London’s Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, discusses how safe ICL surgery is.
Common side effects
- Infection: this can be easily treated with antibiotic eye drops.
- Intraocular pressure: this is a build-up of fluid pressure inside the eye which can be painful. If recognised quickly, it can be easily treated with medication.
- Lens reposition: the phakik intraocular lens can move slightly following surgery. If it does, you will need a quick outpatient procedure to reposition it.
Rare side effects
- Natural lens damage: the eye’s natural lens can become damaged during surgery, and if it does, it will be replaced with an artificial lens.
- Cataracts: there have been links between ICL implantation and early onset cataracts. Cataract surgery will be suggested if this happens.
- Retinal detachment: this occurs when the membrane at the back of the eye becomes detached after surgery. Although less than 1% of patients experience retinal detachment, if diagnosed it can be corrected with surgery.
If you experience any problems after your surgery you should consult your surgeon immediately.
Benefits Of ICL Surgery
- It does not result in dry eye syndrome, something that can occur in up to 20% of patients who undergo laser eye surgery.
- Unlike other vision corrective treatments, ICL surgery does not remove any corneal tissue. Removal of corneal tissue can weaken your eye and lead to serious complications such as ectasia, in which the cornea becomes so thin that it begins to bulge outwards and can lead to blindness.
- The lens can be removed and therefore the procedure can be reversed if necessary, something that is not possible with laser procedures. Should your eye health change or new technology become available, you will be able to remove the lens and discuss further treatment options options with your optical surgeon.
- ICL surgery is a non-invasive procedure that can be carried out in approximately half an hour, and has a short recovery period meaning daily activities can be resumed within a matter of days.