What is an ICL?

When most people think of vision correction procedures, they think of laser eye procedures. Although the most popular vision correction procedures are laser procedures, some alternatives don’t use a laser to change the shape of the eye or even correct your vision. 

One of these alternatives uses an implant called an ICL. An ICL, or implantable collamer lens, is an additive lens that helps improve nearsightedness and some astigmatism.

The ICL implanted in your eye can correct your vision, ensuring you can see clearly without glasses or contacts. It also has advantages over procedures like LASIK. Keep reading to learn more about an ICL and how it works! 

What is an ICL?

ICL stands for Implantable Collamer Lens. The ICL works a lot like a contact lens, except it goes inside your eye instead of sitting on top of it. 

Like a contact lens, it changes how light refracts through your eye to correct certain refractive errors. ICLs can correct both nearsightedness and astigmatism.

The lens itself is made from collamer, which is a material that’s derived from collagen. Collagen is a protein that your body produces. 

Because collamer is similar to collagen, it’s a material that your body recognizes as part of your eye instead of a foreign object. This makes the implant highly biocompatible, meaning it integrates well with the harmony of your eye.

Implanting the ICL

Implanting the ICL into your eye is minimally invasive and less invasive than procedures like LASIK. It’s an outpatient procedure that only takes a few minutes to complete. 

After numbing the eyes, your surgeon will create a tiny incision in your eye. They will then fold up the ICL and push it through the incision. 

The ICL then unfolds, positioned between the iris and your natural lens. After your surgeon positions the ICL, the procedure is complete. No stitches or sutures are needed as the small incision will heal quickly.

Long-Term Outcomes

Most ICL patients achieve 20/20 vision or better. The ICL can correct your vision beyond what visual aids are capable of. 

That means you can achieve better vision than you could with glasses or contact lenses. The ICL can also correct nearsightedness specifically to an astounding degree that’s better than what LASIK is capable of.

LASIK can correct nearsightedness up to -11.00 diopters. The ICL can correct nearsightedness to an impressive -23.00 diopters! 

If you’re severely nearsighted, choosing the ICL may be the only procedure to correct your vision completely. The incredible vision you can achieve with the ICL will also last. 

The additive lens can stay inside your eye for the rest of your life, where it will continue to correct your refractive error. It won’t prevent age-related vision loss, but it also won’t prevent treatment for age-related eye conditions like cataracts. 

If you need cataract surgery, you’ll have the ICL removed and replaced with an IOL during the procedure. The ICL can comfortably stay in your eye indefinitely. However, it’s the only vision correction procedure that’s removable and reversible. 

Reversible Vision Correction

The ICL is the only reversible vision correction procedure. Unlike procedures like LASIK, having the ICL implanted in your eye is not a laser eye procedure.

These procedures permanently change the shape of your eye. 

The lasers reshape the cornea to correct your refractive errors. Outcomes for refractive laser eye procedures like LASIK are excellent, and many patients love their results.

However, the concept of permanently changing the shape of your eye may make you uncomfortable. Knowing that procedures like LASIK do this permanently may make many patients hesitant to undergo these procedures. 

But with the ICL, you don’t have to worry about irreversibly changing your vision. Unlike a permanent laser eye procedure, you can remove the ICL. 

It’s meant to be permanent, and most patients keep their ICL for many years, enjoying crisp, clear vision. However, knowing the ICL can be removed provides patients peace of mind. 

Most patients never want to have their ICLs removed, though, as they are more than happy with their improved vision!

Other ICL Benefits

In addition to giving you incredible vision and freedom from contact lenses and glasses, the ICL has built-in UV protection. Damage to the eye from harmful UV rays puts you at higher risk for several eye conditions. 

This extra protection can help your eyes stay healthy, although you should still wear sunglasses to ensure your eyes are completely protected, even if you choose an ICL to correct your vision.

Recovery from the ICL implanted in your eye is also easy due to the minimally invasive procedure. Because the ICL is biocompatible, you’ll also have a lower risk of developing dry eyes.

If you’ve ever considered LASIK and have had a consultation only to discover your corneas were too thin, the ICL may also be a great alternative. LASIK requires a certain corneal thickness to accommodate a corneal flap. 

But the ICL doesn’t require a flap. If you’re not a good candidate for LASIK, you may be better suited for the ICL.

ICL Candidates

If you’re nearsighted with mild astigmatism, the ICL may be the best procedure for you. To have the procedure, you must be between the ages of 21 and 45. 

You also need stable vision with a prescription that hasn’t changed in over a year. You must also be in good health with no other eye conditions that could interfere with surgery. 

However, if you meet these qualifications, there’s a good chance you’ll qualify as a candidate for the ICL.

Are you ready for better vision? Find out if you could be a good candidate for the ICL by requesting your consultation at New England Eye Center in Boston, MA, now!

Cataract Self-Test
LASIK Self-Test