Although it may seem higher, only about 6% of Americans have vision impairment, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health. Still, that 6% equates to 14 million people.

For those with vision problems, glasses and contact lenses can seem like the only solution. True, there’s LASIK surgery, but people with dry eyes or corneas that are too thin typically don’t qualify for it. 

Fortunately, there may be another solution for the unlucky squinters who can’t get LASIK: ICL surgery.

Why would I need ICL surgery?

Implantable Collamer Lens (ICL) surgery works to correct moderate to severe myopia (nearsightedness) and/or astigmatism, which is an imperfection in the curvature of your eye’s cornea or lens. 

A normal cornea and lens are smooth and curved equally in all directions, which helps to focus light rays onto the retina at the back of your eye, according to the American Academy of Opthamology. Imperfections mean that light rays don’t bend properly as they enter the eye, which makes objects both near and far look blurry or distorted.

This is where ICL surgery can be a great solution! The ophthalmologist implants an artificial lens—similar to a contact lens—in front of the eye’s natural lens and behind the iris, which is the colored part of your eye. This acts as a focusing agent to help the light rays bend sharply as they enter the eye. 

With ICL, the lens can’t be seen or felt. Even more importantly, patients report significantly improved vision immediately after surgery, according to Hoopes Vision. Vision continues to improve over the next few days and is often described as ultra-high definition.

How does the surgery work? 

The prep for ICL starts a week before the surgery. According to Healthline, the ophthalmologist will use a laser to make tiny holes between the front of your eye and natural lens in a pre-appointment. This prevents pressure and fluid buildup in the eye after the procedure. You may also be given antibiotics or anti-inflammatory eye drops at this time. 

Then, on the day of the procedure, you’ll lie down on your back in the room and be given a local anesthetic and mild sedative to help you relax, and possibly an injection around the eye to temporarily stop you from moving it. Your surgeon will clean the eye and the area around it, then make a small, self-sealing incision in your eye. They’ll put a lubricant to protect your cornea and then insert the ICL—made of a very thin blend of plastic and a type of collagen—through the incision. 

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What’s the recovery like for ICL surgery? 

The whole procedure takes 20 to 30 minutes, and recovery takes a few hours. You go home with mild painkillers the same day, but someone else must drive you. You’ll have a follow-up appointment the next day, followed by a one-month checkup and a 6-month checkup. After the 6-month checkup, you’ll need to check in with your eye doctor once a year. 

What’s the difference between ICL and LASIK?

The implantable lens is capable of correcting a higher degree of myopia than LASIK, and since the procedure does not involve reshaping the cornea through the removal of tissue, it can be performed on patients whose corneas are too thin for laser refractive procedures, according to Hoopes Vision

During the ICL procedure, no corneal tissue is removed. Instead the surgeon places the implant through a 3mm incision and places the edges of the lens behind the iris. Patients typically see results within 24 hours. 

With LASIK, the surgeon uses a laser to make a thin flap in the tissue of the cornea, then uses the laser to shape the cornea so light can fully focus on the retina. 

While both procedures are same-day, patients typically report better vision immediately after ICL surgery, while LASIK patients may take 7 to 10 days after surgery to see full results. ICL surgery patients also do not typically report the same issues with night vision that some report after LASIK surgery. 

What are the risks with ICL surgery?

As with all surgeries, there is some risk with ICL surgery. The practitioners at Hoopes Vision can walk you through possible risks as well as benefits of ICL surgery to help you make an informed decision about whether the procedure is right for you.

Hoopes Vision has been committed to delivering the safest, most effective vision correction technology in the Salt Lake area for the past 15 years. Click here to schedule a consultation or call at 801.568.0200.