What is ICL?
Implantable contact lens surgery (ICL) offers an alternative solution for people who are not suitable candidates for laser eye surgery. It involves a procedure where a contact lens is surgically and permanently embedded inside the eye in order to improve or correct vision. This has come as a welcome advancement in eye surgery for those who have sought laser eye treatment in the past but were turned down. People falling into this category would include those who are severely far sighted (hyperopic), short sighted (myopic) or people who have abnormally shaped corneas (astigmatism).
What does the Procedure Entail?
Basically, there are three types of ICL:
Posterior Chamber Phakic - for extreme short sightedness.
Bifocal Phakic - for reaching the best reasonable level of vision for those with both near and far vision impairments who want to do away with glasses. (There is the compromise here that you will have to forgo attaining the highest level of vision.)
Ophtec Iris-Fixated - also known as Artisan lenses - are used for correcting both near and far sightedness and astigmatism, but are particularly suited to those suffering from extreme myopia.
Surgery for ICL entails numbing of the eye area before making a small incision, then embedding a lens in the eye. The position that the lens is placed in depends on the particular type of ICL surgery. With the Posterior Chamber Phakic procedure, the lens is positioned in front of the eye lens behind the iris, whereas an Artisan lens is actually clipped to the iris of the eye. Once the lens is in place, depending on the size of the incision, it will either be left to heal naturally or dissolvable sutures will be put in place. Patients can expect to experience improved vision within 1-7 days after surgery and the eye itself should heal completely within 2 months.
Why Should I Have ICL?
If you are fed up of wearing glasses or contact lenses and want the freedom to be able to get on with your life without having to make provisions for your impaired vision, then ICL eye surgery may be the answer to your prayers. ICL surgery is not as invasive as laser surgery where, in some procedures, parts of the cornea need to be cut away. Although the procedure is permanent it is also reversible. This can prove useful when considering any changes that may occur in a patient's prescription.
However, as with all surgery, there will be elements of risk - and with ICL age is an important factor. Some ICLs are better suited to young and middle aged people due to there being more eye elasticity for support. Eye infections are another possibility, as are night vision problems and glare. Nonetheless, these risks are greater with laser eye surgery.
So What’s the Next Step?
Before you go rushing out to book a consultation at your nearest clinic - wait! Take your time to consider a few providers and spend a little time doing some research - nothing taxing, just general information about what they do, especially when it comes to the procedures you are interested in. Find out who their surgeons are and make sure they belong to an established professional body like the Royal College of Opthalomologists or similar. Most importantly, read testimonials from past patients and, if possible, speak to people who have had these procedures at the clinics in question.
Once you have narrowed down your choice and had some consultations, the information you are given together with the research you have done, should stand you in good stead. But not until then will you be able to make a truly informed choice on what is best for you.