Learn Exactly What Is ICL Surgery

Learn Exactly What Is ICL Surgery

What if I told you there was a way to surgically correct your vision without permanently changing the eye? Sounds far-fetched; but this cool technology actually exists! (And has existed for decades as well!) What I'm talking about is the Visian ICL. The ICL is actually a lens. This allows the Visian ICL to correct vision very differently from other procedures.

During ICL surgery, the ICL (or implantable collamer lens) is placed inside the eye to correct vision. This differs from other procedures such as lasik which correct vision by permanently changing the cornea.

Sounds cool right? So let’s explore more about how exactly ICL may be the procedure of choice for you.

How ICL works

Similar to many of the other refractive eye surgeries such as lasik eye surgery, ICL is used to electively correct vision and get out of glasses and / or contact lenses. It is designed for individuals with healthy eyes and with stable prescriptions.

But different from the other procedures, this procedure uses an implantable lens. The ICL lens sits behind your iris, completely invisible to the naked eye.

This lens is made out of special biocompatible material called collamer specifically designed to have zero interaction within the eye. This lens material was specifically designed to be incredibly soft and flexible, completely nonreactive, and designed to last forever.

Visian ICL

Visian ICL - Image ⓒ Staar Surgical, used with permission

The easiest way to conceptualize this approach is to think of how contact lenses correct vision. Contact lenses are a reversible way to correct vision. You simply put the contact lens on the eye and you can see. ICLs work in a similar concept. You simply put the ICL within the eye and you can see.

But unlike contact lenses, you don't have to remove the ICL for cleaning, you don’t have to buy new packs of ICL each month and you don’t develop allergies or irritation to the ICL. The comparison between ICL and contact lenses ends right there.

What is the process to get vision corrected with ICL

Prior to ICL surgery, the prescription and size of your eye are measured. These measurements are then used to pick a customized ICL lens matching that prescription and size. If you have astigmatism, ICL can correct that too! ICL is a very individualized solution.

Your eyes are also evaluated to make sure they are healthy. This involves a dilated exam to take a good look in the back of the eye. The dilated exam also can be used to measure your prescription in different ways to make the ICL surgery as accurate as possible.

Next up is the actual procedure itself

The Procedure

ICL surgery is a simple outpatient procedure. The surgery is typically done in a surgery center and only takes about 10 minutes per eye. Most often both eyes are done on the same day.

You don't need to be put asleep for ICL surgery; you remain awake. Yes that sounds scary but the surgery is completely painless and not bad to go through. You mostly will have a strange and bizarre light show with some weird pressure sensations. Easy to go through, but you will frequently have some medication beforehand for anxiety to make it even easier.

The iris and the lens

The iris and the lens; image by File:Three Internal chambers of the Eye.png: Artwork by Holly Fischer derivative work: Pixelsquid, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons / cropped from original

During surgery, your eyes are first dilated and then your surgeon will take this ICL and tuck it behind the colored part of your eye (called the iris) and in front of your own natural lens. The ICL then rests very comfortably and very well tolerated in this place.

Check out the full procedure:

What can you expect afterwards?

Pretty immediately after ICL surgery, you will have some improvement in vision. However, you will still have some blurred vision for the first day. This blurred vision heals up very rapidly within the first 24 hours as the eye heals and the dilation wears off.

For the first week after ICL, you will have limitations on strenuous activity and heavy lifting. You will also want to avoid swimming for the first few weeks after ICL surgery. But after that, you are back to your normal usual routine. There isn’t much downtime after ICL surgery.

The same goes with vision. After that blurry vision that first day, there isn’t a whole lot much else to recover from. Your vision becomes sharp very quickly. Similar to other ways of correcting vision, you will notice some short-term halos around lights at nighttime that gradually improve over time.

The top advantages of ICL surgery

The biggest advantage of ICL comes from the fact that it is a lens. Because of this, the ICL can treat a HUGE range of prescriptions that laser eye surgery simply cannot.

Often people are excluded from laser vision correction for one reason or another. They may have a prescription which is too high for lasik or PRK to treat. They may have irregular scans of their cornea which disqualify them from getting the procedure. ICL exists to treat those patients.

ICL can safely treat very high prescriptions

If you try to treat high prescriptions with laser eye surgery, you start to run out of room in the cornea to do a safe treatment. Lasik corrects vision by remodeling the cornea. The more treatment needed, the more remodeling necessary. And remodeling the cornea makes the cornea thinner. There is a limit to how much cornea lasik can treat without causing the cornea to become too thin and thus weak. Higher prescriptions need thicker corneas. As a result, some patients aren't candidates for lasik (or its alternative, PRK) because of too thin corneas or too high of near-sighted prescriptions.

But the ICL doesn't have these issues. Your prescription is simply built into the lens itself!

How high can you go? Well, the ICL is FDA approved to treat from -3.00 of nearsightedness all the way up to -16.00 of nearsightedness! Even if you are more nearsighted than -16.00, the ICL is approved to reduce the amount of prescription.

ICL can be used to treat irregular corneas

As with high prescriptions, applying too much laser energy can cause the cornea to weaken over time. But there exists some corneas which may already be weak. This exists in conditions such as keratoconus.

Because ICL does not change the cornea, there is no concern that the cornea can become weak after ICL surgery. As long as you still have good vision, ICL can work very well to correct your prescription.

What is the main issue with ICL surgery?

If ICL surgery was a perfect procedure, you most likely would have already heard about it. So what is the main roadblock to getting ICL surgery?

ICL surgery is expensive

The cost of ICL surgery is probably the number one issue with getting your vision corrected with ICL. ICL surgery will cost anywhere between $7,000 and $10,000 to get both eyes corrected. This is significantly more than what lasik costs (which is approximately around $4,500 to get both eyes corrected).

The ICL lens that gets placed in your eye has to be manufactured. The special material and the precision needed in the lens to correct vision increase the costs for this lens. As you get to keep this lens, this adds to the cost of the procedure over laser vision correction. In addition, because ICL surgery is typically performed in a surgery center, this also increases how much you are paying.


ICL surgery is a revolutionary way of correcting vision. Instead of permanently altering the cornea, ICL corrects vision by taking a biocompatible lens with your prescription and placing it within the eye. If you have a high prescription, ICL could be the solution for you to get out of glasses.

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