What to Know About Implantable Collamer Lens (ICL) Surgery?

Medically Reviewed by Whitney Seltman, OD on July 12, 2022
3 min read

ICL surgery (also known as EVO Implantable Collamer or Interocular Contact Lens) is an alternative to Lasik. During the procedure, an eye surgeon who is specially trainedimplants contact lenses permanently into your eyes.

If you are nearsighted, you can see things that are closer to you but struggle to focus on things that are far away. The farther an object is from you, the blurrier it appears. When your eye loses the ability to focus on objects, you need corrective treatment. Options include:

  • Glasses
  • Contact lenses
  • Lasik corrective surgery
  • ICL surgery

The severity of your nearsightedness determines what treatment options are available. A minor refraction problem may be easily treated with glasses or contact lenses. However, you may not qualify for Lasik surgery. ICL helps to fill the gaps in between or assist people who prefer not to wear glasses or contact lenses.

ICL Soft Lens

A soft lens is just what the name implies. The lens is made from a polymeric material that bends easily. The design is similar to the collagen found in your cornea, so it poses less risk of an adverse reaction.

During a soft lens implantation procedure, the eye surgeon cuts a tiny incision in your cornea, and places the ICL inside your eye, between your iris and lens. There are no stitches required. .

Intraocular Lens

This type of ICL surgery is specifically designed for patients that don’t meet the criteria for Lasik surgery because of severe nearsightedness. For this type of implant, a surgeon places the lens between the cornea and the iris so that your eyes can focus better.

Surgeons use tiny stitches to close the incision so that the lens stays in place. With this type of lens, overall function decreases with age. Patients may need reading glasses later in life. If a patient with an intraocular lens develops cataracts, a doctor has to remove the lens to perform corrective surgery.

With both variations of surgery, your eye’s natural lens stays in place. The implanted lenses serve to enhance your vision without the need for glasses or contacts that you take in and out.

For the most part, yes. It is possible to remove the lenses, but their removal requires another surgery. If you do choose to have lenses removed following ICL surgery, your vision may be worse than before the surgery. This is because, over time, eyesight can need additional correction.

Any medical procedure comes with risks. Talk to your eye doctor about the pros and cons of ICL surgery before making your decision.

Vision loss. It’s possible that your vision will get worse following ICL surgery. Implanting lenses may not be successful or may damage your eyesight further.

Changes in vision. ICL surgical patients may have double vision, see halos, experience glare, or struggle to see clearly in low light.

Additional surgery. If the first ICL surgery isn’t successful, you may need another. If the lens is off-center or moves out of place, a surgeon must cut your eye again to adjust or replace the lens.

Results aren’t guaranteed. You may want to achieve perfect 20/20 vision, but that doesn’t always happen. Your vision may improve but not be as good as you expected. It’s possible for a lens to be too strong or too weak for your individual needs. Minor differences may require reading glasses or contact lenses to achieve perfect vision following surgery. For ICL lenses that are severely incorrect, you may need another surgery.

Pressure. You may feel like there is pressure in or behind your eyes following surgery. It’s possible that your doctor prescribes medication to treat symptoms like pressure, but keep in mind that too much pressure can impact your vision, damaging it permanently.

Detached retina. Eye surgery may cause retinal detachment. When this happens, the tissue on the back of your eye that senses light is no longer connected to your eye.

Infection. If your eyes hurt after surgery, it may be a sign of infection. While soreness and discomfort are common, most people have a quick ICL surgery recovery. Address any concerns like pain, redness, swelling, or inflammation with your doctor.

Despite the risks, an ICL procedure can be a great option for many people experiencing poor vision. Your doctor can tell you if you’re a good candidate for the surgery.