ICL: the advantages of implantable contact lenses

Perhaps the sense we rely on most to perceive the world is our sight. A variety of problems can affect our eyesight, and to combat these, technology and procedures to treat our eyes are continually advancing. Laser eye surgery is well-known and comes in a number of forms, but another option is that of implantable contact lenses (ICLs). Esteemed ophthalmologist Dr CT Pillai explains:

What are ICL lenses?

ICLs stand for implantable Collamer lenses but are more commonly referred to as implantable contact lenses. Collamer is the material with which they are made; a technologically advanced lens material that has a collagen base and is 100% biocompatible and designed to function in harmony with the eye. It is a micro-thin lens that is placed inside the eye, just behind the iris (in an area called the sulcus). Due to their biocompatibility, they can effectively serve as contact lenses which correct the vision permanently. There is no chance of rejection by the human eye. The latest generation of lenses are called EVO Visian ICL.

Who needs these lenses?

It is an excellent alternative for those who have been found unsuitable for laser treatment for reasons such as high prescriptions, thin and abnormal corneas, or dry eye syndrome. It can also be used to help correct the vision of patients suffering from keratoconus who have already had cross-linking treatment or where it has stabilised.

The lens is often opted for over laser surgery for higher and complex prescriptions, as there is no modification of the cornea which can cause dry eyes; instead, a lens is inserted, making the procedure completely reversible.

Is the treatment painful?

Anaesthetic drops are applied to numb the eye, meaning that nothing is felt throughout the treatment. The drops wear off without any side effects soon after the procedure is finished. The procedure takes 30 minutes per eye and is very straightforward with an experienced consultant ophthalmological surgeon. There is occasionally some mild discomfort for a few days after the procedure, but this is easily alleviated with over-the-counter painkillers and rarely causes patients any difficulty in carrying out day-to-day tasks.

Is the treatment safe?

EVO Visian ICL treatment has been approved in Europe since 1997 and FDA approved in the US since 2005. In that time, almost 1 million eyes have been had the lens implanted and there has been a proven safety record with a patient satisfaction rate of 99%. As with any surgery, there comes associated risk; however, with this surgery, the risk of a severe complication is very low. One lens of this kind is implanted every seven minutes worldwide. Advanced Vision Care (AVC) surgeons are pioneers and have been international trainers for this technology for more than 15 years. This is the only implantable lens approved for the US military from 2003.

We provide a comprehensive one-year aftercare scheme, which includes all post-operative appointments and management of any side-effects or complications. Safety of this type of surgery is highly dependent on the surgeon’s experience and expertise and it is important to ensure that all aftercare instructions are followed and all medications are taken as prescribed by the surgeon.

How much does it cost?

At AVC, prices start from £3,350 per eye and can vary depending on the type of prescription being corrected and the complexity of the prescription, as the lens is tailor-made by the manufacturer. Prices include a full one-year comprehensive aftercare scheme including medications for one month.

What are the advantages of lens implanting surgery over LASIK?

ICL treatment provides clear, sharp vision without inducing dry eyes as there is no permanent modification made to the cornea. This also means that the cornea is not made thinner, allowing for future potential LASIK enhancement surgery to be possible. There is UV protection built into the lens itself. They are able to treat a much higher prescription range compared to LASIK, as the lenses are bespoke and tailor-made for each patient. It has also been argued that it provides a more stable and predictable outcome when treating higher prescriptions as there is no corneal healing involved, which in itself may sometimes affect the visual outcome. The procedure is also completely reversible, so if for any reason the lens needs to be removed, this can safely be done by an experienced surgeon. More importantly, it is a reversible procedure, unlike laser surgery, which causes a permanent and irreversible modification to the cornea.

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