When you are considering vision correction surgery, you should have several criteria for choosing a procedure to make sure that it is right for you. First and foremost should be safety. Since vision correction surgery is an elective procedure, you want to choose a method that would be safest for you. Next, the precision of the visual outcome, as well as the stability of vision, would be important. The speed of recovery and the cost of the procedure are practical considerations which would also contribute to your decision making. Being able to work as soon as possible is a critical criterion for most people.
Implantable Collamer Lens (ICL)
ICL is made of a substance called Collamer, which is a naturally occurring substance. Since the human eye does not see Collamer as a foreign substance, there is no rejection of ICL. ICL has been removed from the human eye 20 years after implantation, and the examination showed no evidence of degradation or the eye’s reaction to the lens.
The Procedure Itself
ICL eye surgery is done in the office as an outpatient procedure. In the hands of an experienced ICL surgeon, the surgery takes about 15 minutes per eye. This is about the same time that is needed to perform LASIK surgery. ICL eye surgery is done with a local anesthetic, eyedrops, to numb the eyes. No shot or injection is required. Yes, while this means that you are awake during the procedure, there is no pain, and patients are very comfortable throughout ICL surgery. Patients may also take a mild sedative, such as valium, to relax before and during the ICL surgery.
First, the ophthalmologist will make a tiny incision at the edge of the cornea. The incision is less than three millimeters long but wide enough to pass ICL into the eye. Because the incision is so small, the eye will usually heal within a day or two. Once the lens is inside, ICL unfolds on its own. The eye surgeon will then place ICL behind the iris, which is the color part of the eye. As ICL surgery is an outpatient surgery, you’ll be able to go home the same day. Most of the time, patients can see well enough to drive. However, we do not recommend that patients drive on the same day as the surgery.
The Recovery Process
You will notice a considerable improvement in your vision the moment you step out of the surgery room. You are likely able to see the clock and tell the time. Having a clear vision without glasses or contact lenses for the first time, you’ll likely feel the freedom and confidence that comes from being independent of any visual devices. Already, you can start to focus on all the things that you can do, such as exercising, driving, or any other activities, free from glasses and contact lenses. While you’re free to go home after the ICL surgery, patients are required to return the next day for an examination. This is a standard protocol, and this check-up usually takes less than 15 minutes. The ophthalmologist will check your vision, eye pressure, and other results from the procedure. The surgeon will also evaluate how the eye is recovering, which includes ensuring that the ICL is appropriately placed inside the eye. The patients are told of their results and are given further advice about ICL recovery time and process.
As the ICL surgery is minimally invasive, in most cases, the eye will heal and regain relatively normal function within 24 hours. However, the ICL recovery time and the process can vary among individuals. The ICL surgeon will monitor and advise patients on what to do during the recovery period. This may include modifying the frequency of the eye drops used, such as the antibiotic and steroid. While very rare, an elevation of the eye pressure may be observed. In these cases, the ophthalmologist may give you medications to lower the eye pressure.
Following ICL surgery, you will most likely be very excited about your new-found vision. However, that doesn’t mean that your eyes have fully recovered. You may experience some fluctuations in your vision during your recovery. The medications will help with this and other symptoms.
Possible Side Effects of ICL Surgery
Just like with any procedure, there can be possible side effects. This is because all of us are unique, and so our body’s response to surgery can vary. When it comes to the ICL surgery, it’s important to understand that the side effects, even when they occur, are reversible in most cases. This reversibility is one of the key differences between ICL and LASIK. If, for any reason, the ICL is not right for you, it can be removed, and your eye will go back to pre-ICL condition.
Here are some possible variabilities in the result that you may encounter:
- Over and Under Correction– while this can be observed with all vision correction procedures. Unlike LASIK or other laser vision correction procedures, ICL is associated with the smallest variability in over and under-correction. Unlike LASIK, ICL surgery does not involve any tissue removal, and the variability in the outcome tends to be much less.
- Glares or Halos – a patient might experience scattering of lights at night time. This is commonly referred to as glares and halos. It is observed more with people with a very high correction or very large pupil. However, compared to LASIK or other laser vision surgeries, the glare and halos tend to be present much less.
- Eye Pressure Increase– another possible side effect is pressure increase after the surgery. Usually, this is temporary, and the eye pressure will normalize with time. However, in some rare cases, patients may need to be on a pressure-lowering drop or have ICL removed.
- Eye Infection or Inflammation – Eye infection is extremely rare, especially with proper follow-up examination. Minor inflammation is more common and will resolve with post-op drops. While rare, to prevent these side-effects from occurring, you should seek the expertise of an experienced ICL surgeon.
What Are Some of the Other Advantages of ICL?
Unlike LASIK or other laser vision surgeries, ICL surgery does not involve making a flap or removal of corneal tissue. This means that people with thin corneas or high nearsightedness can undergo ICL surgery with a much greater degree of safety and accuracy. This is because ICL surgery is independent of the severity of your nearsightedness. Patients can expect the same degree of success, whether their nearsightedness is very high or low.
Also, ICL surgery does not cause dryness of the eyes. This is because, unlike LASIK or other laser eye surgeries, ICL surgery does not involve cutting the cornea and corneal nerves. This disruption in the natural anatomy and functioning of the eye can lead to dryness. Many people suffer from dryness in the eyes, and it is reassuring to know that ICL surgery will not make this worse.
How Much Does ICL Cost?
ICL tends to cost a little more than LASIK surgery. However, the cost difference may not be very significant, especially if you consider all the benefits you get from ICL. Even from the cost point of view, ICL is definitely an option you should consider when looking into vision correction surgeries.
ICL surgery has proven itself to be highly safe and effective. It is the fastest-growing vision correction procedure in the world. Its main advantage lies with the fact that the vision correction is accomplished without altering the natural anatomy or the functioning of the eye.