Are you tired of constantly replacing your contact lenses or worrying about glasses sliding down your nose?
Not suitable for laser surgery because you have a high or extreme prescription, including astigmatism?
Implantable contact lenses, also known as ICL, could be the solution you’ve been looking for.
These surgically implanted contact lenses assist the eye’s natural lens in correcting vision problems and offer a long-lasting alternative to traditional contacts or glasses.
However, as with any surgical procedure, you may wonder how long implantable contact lenses last and if they’re a permanent solution for your vision needs.
Let’s look at ICL surgery’s longevity and what factors can affect its lifespan.
How Long Do Implantable Contact Lenses Last?
When you are highly short-sighted, or your cornea is too thin or dry to allow LASIK, your ophthalmologist might recommend ICL surgery instead.
Rather than wearing corrective glasses or contact lenses, ICL surgery places a specially-made lens behind the iris of your eyes, just in front of the natural lens. This implant is a patented design made from a blend of polymer and collagen by STAAR Surgical in Nidau, Switzerland.
These internal contact lenses are designed to last 100 years, so they should last you the rest of your life. However, there is a significant advantage to ICL over LASIK – if, for some reason, you are unhappy with the results, implantable contact lens surgery can be removed, unlike laser eye surgery.
Does ICL Surgery Last Forever?
While the lenses will last until you no longer want or need them, your vision will likely deteriorate with age, such as needing reading glasses in middle age or developing cataracts in later life.
ICLs aim to correct your myopia and distance vision. However, it is normal to need reading glasses over 45.
The surgery itself will last forever, although it is reversible if necessary.
One of the reasons the surgery is only recommended for patients over the age of 21 is because the eye keeps growing and changing until our early twenties. These changes are why vision can grow worse through your childhood.
However, if your prescription changes significantly, you must either get new lenses and undergo a second implantable contact lens surgery with a more powerful implant or use glasses or external contact lenses to correct your vision. You could also have a minor top-up LASIK procedure if suitable.
Since the ICL surgery does not change the shape of your eye, it is still possible to correct your vision with other methods after treatment, if necessary.
How Long is ICL Good For?
Although the lenses are designed to be permanent, your ophthalmologist will first ascertain your eye shape and prescription needs before ordering your lenses. The lenses inserted will be correct for your vision at the time of surgery.
Usually, your ophthalmologist will only recommend implantable contact lenses if your vision has been stable for at least a year—patients with steadily worsening vision are not good candidates for surgery.
For some people, the surgery results are permanent as they experience very little worsening of vision over time.
For others, there is a noticeable decline in sight after a decade. In this case, you can supplement your eyesight with new prescription glasses or standard contact lenses.
The implantation of ICL has been approved for people between 21-60 years old. After 45, near eyesight generally deteriorates as the eye’s natural lens becomes less flexible.
This age is when many people start noticing that they find it harder to read the fine print. The process of presbyopia is usually gradual and easily corrected with reading glasses.
Can ICL Surgery Be Done Twice?
Implantable contact lens surgery can be done twice, though obviously, this is an expensive procedure, and most people prefer to do it only once.
The unique lens is designed to last a lifetime, but a second surgery is sometimes required.
While it is rare, sometimes the lens moves out of place or is not correctly centred. Your ophthalmologist will need to do a second surgery to shift the lens into its correct place.
Sometimes a lens may not be the correct fit for the shape of your eye, and a different style lens, such as a toric lens, may be necessary.
People who suffer from near-sightedness (myopia) are more likely to suffer from glaucoma, which is increased pressure inside your eyes, detached retinas, and cataracts. Regular check-ups will ensure that your eyes are healthy and the lenses do not need to be removed.
If you develop cataracts, for example, your surgeon may need your ICL removed. Luckily, monofocal intraocular lenses used to correct cataracts can also help correct your distance vision.
Can Myopia Come Back After ICL Surgery?
While ICL surgery will improve your vision, not everyone will achieve 20/20 vision. Sometimes, your vision will gradually worsen due to the natural ageing process as our eyes’ lenses become less flexible. However, most people will use reading glasses for minor presbyopia after age 45-50.
Although ICL is safe for correcting high myopia, surgery is not always without risks. Some other complications may affect your vision, such as increased intraocular pressure, blurred sight, retinal detachment, and cloudy corneas.
Although you will be prescribed antibiotic eye drops after the surgery, there is also the chance of an eye infection. The incidence of infection within the eye after ICL surgery is low, occurring in about 1 in 6,000 cases. This is lower than the risk of infection after cataract surgery, around 1 in 2,000 for uncomplicated cases.
The highest risk for problems comes from the decreased fluid circulating in the eye, which can potentially cause cataracts.
Is ICL Surgery Reversible?
ICL surgery is reversible, as the surgeon needs only enter into the eye to extract the Collamer lens. While the lenses are hypoallergenic and the procedure is safe, not everyone will be satisfied with their results.
Unlike laser eye surgery which permanently alters the eyes, the ICL can be removed. In some cases, your vision will not return to what it was before the surgery.
Since the surgery is reversible, this allows for a second surgery if you feel it is required if, for example, your myopia has worsened significantly over the years. Your ophthalmologist can determine if this is suitable for your case.
ICL surgery is long-lasting, with the lenses lasting the remainder of your lifetime. Still, the natural ageing process may weaken close vision as you get older, meaning there is the chance you will need glasses or additional vision correction at a later date if you want to be glasses-free.
However, this would be the case whether or not you had an implantable contact lens procedure, so it’s worth considering whether the improvement in your eyesight for that period would be worth the investment.
If you’re considering implantable contact lens surgery or want to know more about the procedure, book a free telephone consultation with a member of our team, and they’ll be happy to talk you through the process.