Implantable contact lenses (ICLs), also known as phakic IOLs, correct vision in much the same way that external contact lenses do, except ICLs are placed inside the eye where they permanently improve vision. ICLs are also similar to intraocular lenses which are used during cataract surgery to replace the eye’s natural lens. However, during ICL surgery, the natural lens is kept in the eye and works with the implanted lens to correct vision. Permanent contact lenses give those who are not candidates for laser vision correction an option for permanent vision correction.
Implantable contact lenses are inserted through a small incision in the cornea and placed behind the iris and in front of the natural lens. These thin, pliable lenses can be an alternative to LASIK surgery and are used to correct conditions that laser surgery may be unable to correct, such as extreme myopia (nearsightedness). The ICL procedure is virtually pain free and has a 95 percent success rate.
The main difference in implantable contact lenses is the type of material used to make each ICL. There are only two types of ICLs approved for use in the United States today: Verisyse™ made of a type of acrylic called polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), and Visian ICL™ made from STAAR® Surgical’s blend of collagen and copolymer called Collamer®.
The outpatient procedure to place implantable contact lenses is performed in less than 30 minutes, recovery time is relatively short, and pain is minor. The lens is placed in front of the eye’s natural lens through a small incision in the cornea. Improved vision is often noticed the same day as surgery, and patients fully heal within a month. Learn more about the ICL eye surgery procedure.