ICL: the advantages of implantable contact lenses

Written by: Dr CT Pillai
Published: | Updated: 16/05/2019
Edited by: Cal Murphy

Vision. 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). Because of their biocompatibility, ICLs 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 Visian ICL?

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.

ICLs are 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 ICL 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 ICL 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 ICL 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 implanted with EVO Visian ICLs 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 ICL surgery, the risk of a severe complication is very low. One ICL 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 ICL 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 Visian ICL cost?

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


What are the advantages of ICL 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. ICLs 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 ICL 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.


If you are interested in ICLs, book an appointment with Dr CT Pillai at his Top Doctors profile.

By Dr CT Pillai

Dr CT Pillai is one of the most experienced laser eye surgeons in the UK, having performed more than 30,000 LASIK, LASEK and PRK procedures over a 25-year career. Dr Pillai's surgical skills and record of very low complication rates have been widely applauded in specialist journals such as Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery, Eye, IOVS, Optician and Cosmetic Surgery. He is the medical director and founder of Advanced Vision Care, a leading independent eye surgery clinic with a global reputation for high success rates and extensive post-surgical care.

Originally qualifying from the University of Madras in 1980, Dr Pillai moved to the UK and became a fellow of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists in 1990. After extensive training with internationally recognised surgeons in Greece, the UK and the USA, he became one of the few surgeons in the UK to be granted a Fellowship in both Corneal and Refractive Surgery. Dr Pillai is celebrated for being one of the first surgeons in the UK to perform bilateral LASIK surgery, treating both eyes on the same day.

As the medical director of Advanced Vision Care, Dr Pillai is committed to providing an impartial service that is independent from any one lens manufacturer. Over the last 15 years he has built up a unique network of ophthalmologists to provide personalised aftercare to the patient, wherever they live in the UK. Under his leadership the clinic enjoys excellent patient reviews and outstanding results - with 99% of patients achieving 20/20 vision or better.

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