Implantable Contact Lenses (ICLs)

A comprehensive guidE

If you want ICLs with Dave Allamby MD, click the button below to book a consultation.

ICLs are an advanced vision correction alternative to treat short-sight, long-sight, astigmatism and presbyopia.

Tiny contact lenses are surgically inserted inside the eye to permanently correct your eyesight without reshaping the cornea, like laser eye procedures.

ICLs are reversible and cause less dry eye than laser eye surgery.

ICL implantable contact lens

This in-depth guide covers all aspects of ICLs, including:

  • how they work

  • benefits

  • suitability

  • surgical procedure

  • recovery

  • costs

  • risks

  • finding the right surgeon

Read on to fully understand this innovative approach to achieving clear, natural vision without glasses or contacts.

What are Implantable Contact Lenses?

Implantable contact lenses (ICLs) are small, soft polymer lenses surgically placed inside the eye between the iris and the natural lens to correct your sight. They are designed to permanently improve vision, so glasses and contact lenses are no longer needed.

ICLs are made from a specialised material called Collamer that is biocompatible, flexible, and highly transparent. The lenses come in different sizes and prescriptions to match each eye’s specific focusing needs.

During ICL surgery, the implant lens is folded up into a very small injector and inserted through a tiny incision in the eye. Once positioned behind the iris, the ICL unfolds and provides continuous focusing power to properly direct light onto the retina for crisp, clear vision at all distances.

Unlike LASIK, which alters the shape of the cornea using a laser, ICL surgery leaves this outer structure completely untouched. The ICL acts similarly to a contact lens placed inside the natural eye.

Implantable contact lenses are designed to remain in the eye permanently. However, your ophthalmologist can safely remove or exchange them if needed. The Collamer material is highly biocompatible, so the risk of rejection is extremely low.

How Do ICLs Correct Vision?

Implantable contact lenses improve eyesight by adding refractive power inside the eye to correctly focus light rays onto the retina.

The ICL sits between the iris and your own lens. Light passes through the cornea, then the implant and finally through the natural lens, which provides the prescription power necessary to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism.

Toric ICL models can treat astigmatism by providing precise cylinder power and axis alignment customised to correct each eye fully.

laser-eye-surgery-types

Multifocal implantable contact lens options contain different focusing zones to correct both near and far sight, treating presbyopia. Light passing through the centre focuses at distance, while peripheral light focuses for near tasks.

The key is that no corneal tissue is removed or reshaped. The ICL supplements the eye’s focusing ability. By preserving the cornea and natural lens, excellent visual quality is maintained, especially at night.

ICL surgery takes 20-30 minutes per eye and is done as an outpatient procedure under numbing drops. Patients can usually return to their normal routines within a couple of days. Patients are counselled not to expect perfect vision. However, most patients achieve eyesight that matches or exceeds what they could see with their glasses or contact lenses.

Benefits of ICL Surgery

Compared to alternatives like LASIK, PRK, and cataract lens implants, ICL surgery offers several advantages. With millions of Visian ICLs implanted worldwide, these phakic intraocular lenses will correct vision problems in a predictable and safe manner. ICL lenses are well understood and are established vision correction treatments.

Implantable collamer lens surgery is less invasive than removing the eye’s natural lens and inserting an intraocular lens, as in standard cataract surgery. The Collamer artificial lens gives better vision than other types of refractive surgery for more extreme prescriptions.

  • Expanded Correction Range
    Implantable collamer lens procedures can safely treat much higher degrees of nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism than laser vision correction. This makes them excellent options for those seeking visual freedom outside standard laser eye surgery ranges.
  • Convenience
    Both eyes can have the ICL procedure on the same day if preferred. Most patients choose this option. The quick recovery means the eyes can be used normally the next day.
  • Preserves Corneal Integrity
    No tissue is removed from the cornea, preserving its structure, clarity, and strength. This maintains its natural focusing ability and minimises the risk of dry eyes or corneal ectasia later in life.
  • Excellent Night Vision
    With no corneal disruption, light transmission and image quality at night are excellent—you gain improved vision with minimal risk of halos, glare, ghosting, and starbursts.
  • Quick Recovery
    The Visian implantable collamer lens surgery involves no lengthy healing process. Most patients see well the next day, with stabilisation within 1-2 weeks. Return to regular activity is quick.
  • Removable & Reversible
    Should their prescription change over time, the surgeon can safely remove or exchange an implantable contact lens. This provides options not available with LASIK, PRK, SMILE or cataract surgery.
  • Stable Vision
    Once healed, implantable contact lens surgery provides continuous clear focus not dependent on the lens position like traditional contacts. No regression is possible, or enhancements are needed.
  • UV Protection
    The implantable contact lens includes a UV-protection material built into the lens implant. The protects your retina from harmful UV rays.
  • Treats Presbyopia
    Special multifocal ICLs can correct both distance and near sight, which is important for reading and computer work as we age. Multifocal ICLs are an alternative to multifocal IOLs used in refractive lens exchange.

What Prescriptions Can ICLs Treat?

  • Short-sight (myopia)
  • Long-sight (hyperopia)
  • Astigmatism
  • Presbyopia

ICls are available for most prescriptions, including astigmatism and reading glasses. The main limiting factor is the depth of the eye’s front chamber, called the anterior chamber.

ICLs are approved to treat prescriptions ranging from +10.0 to approximately -18.0 diopters for myopia and hyperopia. The latest models can also correct up to 6 diopters of astigmatism.

Your refractive surgeon will determine if your particular prescription falls within a treatable range. Even if LASIK or PRK laser eye surgery has been ruled out for you in the past, ICLs may provide a safe, effective option for clear, unaided eyesight.

Why should you
Choose me?

01

I have performed more than 25,000 laser eye procedures.

02

I have a published 100% success rate for 20/20 vision.

03

More than 2,000 5-star reviews confirm my obsession with safety and perfect results.

Suitability for ICL Surgery

If you are frustrated with glasses or contact lenses or have been told LASIK is not for you, ICLs may provide the ideal correction solution. But confirming candidacy beforehand is crucial.

Your ophthalmologist will conduct thorough pre-operative tests to determine if ICL surgery is safe and appropriate for your eyes. Examinations evaluate the cornea, internal eye structures, pupil size, and precise refractive error (your glasses prescription) measurements.

General requirements to be a good ICL candidate include:

  • Stable vision with no fluctuations in your eyeglass/contact lens prescription for at least 1 year
  • Moderate to high short-sight, long-sight or astigmatism not suited for laser vision correction
  • Corneas thicker than 480 microns (similar to laser eye surgery)
  • Pupils under 7 mm diameter in dim light
  • No corneal disease or cataracts
  • Motivation to achieve excellent outcomes with less dependence on glasses or contacts
  • Realistic expectations of ICL surgery benefits and potential limitations
  • Willingness to follow proper post-operative care instructions

Risks and Limitations of ICL Surgery

While ICL surgery is highly safe and effective in treating blurry vision when properly performed on well-qualified candidates, there are still risks to consider, as with any eye surgery.

Potential ICL Complications

Rare risks include:

  • Infection – Treated with prescription antibiotic eye drops

  • Inflammation – Well controlled with steroid medication

  • Under/over correction – Fixed with ICL exchange

  • Lens rotation – Repositioned if bothersome visually

  • Cataracts – Slow development in some patients

  • Corneal swelling – Temporary and managed with drops

Your ophthalmologist will discuss risks in detail at your consultation. Follow all pre and post-op instructions to minimise complications.

Vision Limitations After ICL Surgery

While most achieve 20/20 or better, some limitations can include:

  • Night vision issues if pupil size was inadequately considered

  • Need for reading glasses over time

  • Rainbow glares around bright lights

  • Occasional double vision if healing is off-centre

Proper sizing and implantation technique minimises the risks of visual aberrations. Discuss any concerns thoroughly with your surgeon.

Long-Term Considerations

Since the lenses are designed to last over a decade, eventual replacement may be needed for changing prescriptions or if cataract surgery becomes necessary later in life. ICLs do not halt the natural ageing of the eyes.

Don’t wait! Make your appointment with me today

what happens during your procedure?

ICLs Surgery Steps

Use a clear and attention-grabbing short paragraph to engage your audience and draw them into reading the rest of your content.

Who is Not Suitable for ICL?

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Age under 20 or over 60 for short-sight
  • Age under 20 or over 50 for long-sight
  • Very dry eyes
  • Not enough space at the front of the eye
  • A prescription outside the treatable range of +10.0 to -18.00 dioptres

Don’t wait! Make your appointment with me today

How to Prepare for ICL Surgery

Proper physical and mental preparation helps everything go according to plan before, during and after your LASIK treatment. Taking the following steps helps set the stage for the smoothest LASIK experience and recovery:

Preparing for ICL Surgery

Preparing for ICL treatment involves:

  • Comprehensive eye exam to determine ICL lens specifics and eye health
  • Corneal topography, pachymetry, and wavefront measurements
  • Recording your medical history to ensure you are suitable for lens icl surgery.
  • Dilated retinal evaluation to confirm a healthy lens and optic nerve
  • Testing pupil size in various lighting conditions
  • Discussion of surgical risks, benefits, and alternatives with your surgeon
  • Review of instructions before surgery day, including medication precautions
  • Arrange transportation since you cannot drive immediately after

After Surgery

Following ICL minimally invasive surgery, you can have low levels of discomfort and a short recovery time. Like all surgical procedures, some prescribed eye drops and precautions are needed to treat patients safely:

  • You will notice clearer vision within 24 hours, similar to LASIK eye surgery
  • Wearing an eye shield at night for 1-2 weeks (an eye patch isn’t necessary)
  • Using antibiotic (protects against eye infection) and anti-inflammatory eye drops for 5-7 days.
  • Returning to work in 2-4 days
  • Resuming exercise in 3-5 days
  • Driving once your eyesight is adequate, often within 1-3 days
  • Sight becomes clearer each day as your eyes heal
  • Full recovery within 1-2 weeks
Other OPTIONS

Alternatives to ICL Surgery

The most common alternatives to ICL are laser treatments: LASIK, PRK, LASEK or SMILE eye surgery. If you are 50+, refractive lens exchange (RLE) may be an option.

ICL vs LASIK

The most common alternative to ICL treatment is LASIK laser eye surgery. LASIK is generally the first choice, but you may not be suitable. If not, ICL can be an excellent choice. See the table to compare the two procedures side-buy-side:

    FEATURES

ICL

LASIK


High and extreme prescriptions

Prescription range

Up to -18D (dioptres)

Up to -10D (dioptres)


Thin corneas

Maintains ability to read

Fast recovery

Reversible

Operating theatre

Infection rate

1 in 3,000

1 in 21,000

ICL vs Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE)

RLE and ICL surgeries share similarities yet possess distinct differences. Both procedures involve the insertion of an implant lens into the eye.

However, in RLE, the natural clear lens is extracted and replaced with an intraocular lens (IOL). RLE typically caters to individuals aged 50 and above.

ICLs offer a unique advantage: they preserve the eye’s natural ability to focus on nearby objects.

Placed between the lens and iris of the eye, this procedure is typically performed on patients between the ages of 20 and 50, making it suitable for younger individuals compared to RLE.

    FEATURES

ICL

RLE


High and extreme prescriptions

Age range *

20-60

50+

Preserves the ability to read naturally

Prescription range

Up to -18D (dioptres)

Up to -25D (dioptres)


Thin corneas

Maintains ability to read

Fast recovery

Reversible

Operating theatre

Infection rate

1 in 3,000

1 in 3,000

ICL vs PRK

Another alternative to ICL is photorefractive keratectomy or PRK.

PRK is mainly used instead of LASIK for patients with thinner corneas or those participating in contact sports. However, the prescription range treatable by PRK is limited compared to ICLs.

Many surgeons who offer ICLs would use this approach for prescriptions above -8.00 dioptres short-sighted or above +3.00 long-sighted.

    FEATURES

ICL

RLE


High and extreme prescriptions

Age range *

20-60

50+

Preserves the ability to read naturally

Prescription range

Up to -18D (dioptres)

Up to -25D (dioptres)


Thin corneas

Maintains ability to read

Fast recovery

Reversible

Operating theatre

Infection rate

1 in 3,000

1 in 3,000

Don’t wait! Make your appointment with me today

ICL Surgery Costs

While more expensive than glasses or contacts, ICL surgery is competitively priced compared to other eye surgery options and provides many years of clear vision without lenses.

ICL Surgery Cost Breakdown

The overall cost of ICL surgery includes:

  • Surgeon/Physician Fees

  • Surgical Facility Fees

  • Implantable Contact Lenses

The total cost is generally £7,000 to £8,500 for surgery on both eyes.

This is more expensive than LASIK (around £4,000-£4,500 for both eyes), but the ICL procedure provides permanent vision correction for those unsuitable for laser vision correction.

Insurance Coverage for ICLs

Since implantable contact lenses are an in-eye procedure to correct refractive errors, including cataracts, insurance plans may cover some of the cost. Coverage varies significantly by plan.

Insurance plans typically only cover annual eye exams and glasses/contacts. However, medical insurance may pay for part of ICL surgery when deemed medically necessary, especially for extreme nearsightedness.

Check with your specific insurance provider to understand potential coverage. Reputable surgeons will provide billing assistance. Financing options are also available to make costs more manageable through low monthly payments.

Long-Term Value of ICL Surgery

While costly upfront, correctly performed ICL surgery provides permanent vision correction without needing glasses or contact lenses after recovery. This saves considerable time and expense over a lifetime otherwise spent on:

  • Eyeglasses – New prescription lenses every 1-2 years

  • Contact lenses – Ongoing costs for supplies plus annual exam fees

  • Laser enhancement – As eyes change over decades

Considering the cumulative costs incurred with glasses, contacts, and repeat eye surgeries, ICL implantation provides good value for suitable candidates who can enjoy clear, unaided vision indefinitely after surgery.

Risks and Limitations of ICL Surgery

While ICL surgery is highly safe and effective in treating blurry vision when properly performed on well-qualified candidates, there are still risks to consider, as with any eye surgery.

Potential ICL Complications

Rare risks include:

  • Infection – Treated with prescription antibiotic eye drops

  • Inflammation – Well controlled with steroid medication

  • Under/over correction – Fixed with ICL exchange

  • Lens rotation – Repositioned if bothersome visually

  • Cataracts – Slow development in some patients

  • Corneal swelling – Temporary and managed with drops

Your ophthalmologist will discuss risks in detail at your consultation. Follow all pre and post-op instructions to minimise complications.

Vision Limitations After ICL Surgery

While most achieve 20/20 or better, some limitations can include:

  • Night vision issues if pupil size was inadequately considered

  • Need for reading glasses over time

  • Rainbow glares around bright lights

  • Occasional double vision if healing is off-centre

Proper sizing and implantation technique minimises the risks of visual aberrations. Discuss any concerns thoroughly with your surgeon.

Long-Term Considerations

Since the lenses are designed to last over a decade, eventual replacement may be needed for changing prescriptions or if cataract surgery becomes necessary later in life. ICLs do not halt the natural ageing of the eyes.

Finding an Experienced ICL Surgeon

Choosing a highly qualified consultant ophthalmic surgeon specialising in implantable contact lenses is crucial for safe, effective outcomes.

What to Look For

See a surgeon who:

  • Is certified in ophthalmology with fellowship cornea and refractive surgery training

  • Provides adjustable ICL sizing based on multiple eye measurements

  • Uses advanced power calculations for precision vision correction

  • Has extensive experience performing hundreds of ICL procedures with excellent outcomes

  • Offers the latest Visian ICL lens models from STAAR Surgical

  • Can treat high degrees of nearsightedness and astigmatism correctly

  • Customises surgery to each patient’s unique eye characteristics

  • Welcomes you to speak with prior ICL patients about their experience

Questions to Ask Your Surgeon

Important questions include:

  • How many ICL procedures do you perform annually?

  • What is your patient satisfaction rate and complication rate?

  • Which ICL products and sizing methods do you use? Are they the latest?

  • How customised will my ICL selection and surgery be?

  • Should I have wavefront-guided LASIK or PRK instead? Why or why not?

  • What limitations might I still have after surgery?

  • What is your enhancement policy if the sight is under-corrected?

Choose a responsive surgeon you trust who addresses all queries thoroughly.

ICL Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the most commonly asked questions about ICL surgery.

What is ICL surgery?

ICL surgery involves the placement of a Collamer lens inside the eye, between the iris and the natural lens. This lens works with the eye’s natural lens to correctly focus light on the retina, improving vision. It’s typically used to correct myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism.

Who is eligible for ICL surgery?

Ideal candidates are typically between 21 and 45 years old, with stable vision prescriptions for at least a year. The surgery is especially beneficial for patients with thin corneas or dry eyes who may not be suitable for LASIK. Patients should not have a history of eye diseases like glaucoma or cataracts.

What are the risks of ICL surgery?

Like any surgical procedure, ICL carries risks, though serious complications are rare. Potential side effects include increased intraocular pressure, cataract development, inflammation, infection, halos, and glare. It’s essential to discuss these risks with your surgeon.

How long does the ICL procedure take?

The surgery itself is relatively quick, often taking less than 30 minutes per eye. However, the entire process, including preparation and post-operative checks, may take a few hours.

What is the ICL recovery process like?

Recovery from ICL surgery is typically quick. Many patients notice improved vision immediately, with stabilization over a few days to weeks. You may need to use prescribed eye drops to prevent infection and inflammation and will have follow-up appointments to monitor healing.

Don’t wait! Make your appointment with me today