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Tossing your glasses and contacts away is a dream for many.  It is now possible thanks to corrective eye procedures such as LASIK. 

But LASIK isn’t suitable for everyone, so what other options exist? An excellent alternative to LASIK is Implantable Contact Lens surgery (ICL).

But what are the differences between ICL and LASIK?

What’s The Difference Between LASIK And ICL?

Implantable Collamer Lens surgery was developed in the 1980s before LASIK received FDA approval in the US.

Understandably, both treatments have seen tremendous technological advances since their origins. 

For example, ICL surgery used to cause some interference with the flow of eye fluid, increasing the risk of developing cataracts. In contrast, modern ICL lenses don’t appear to cause these complications.

Nowadays, LASIK is the most popular form of laser eye surgery.

However, it isn’t a good fit for all patients.

Implantable Collamer Lens (ICL) surgery is a corrective vision procedure where a polymeric lens is implanted between the eye’s natural lens and the iris. It is a popular option for those with short-sight with or without astigmatism.

ICL surgery can also be used for long-sightedness if there is sufficient depth at the front of the eye (confirmed by an eye scan).

Implantable Contact Lens (ICL) surgery is a potential option for those who are poor LASIK candidates or don’t want permanent changes made to their eyes. 

In some cases, it makes sense to combine LASIK and ICL, although the popularity of doing this is decreasing due to advances in ICL technology.

Not Sure Which Treatment Is Right For You?

We offer a number of vision correction treatments at our London Clinic.

We can give you a good idea of your suitability over the phone and schedule you for an initial consultation.

LASIK Pros & Cons

LASIK is a popular and rapid vision correction procedure. LASIK uses advanced lasers which cut a flap at the top of the cornea and then carefully remove corneal tissue, changing the shape of the eye. 

On average, the process requires 5-10 minutes per eye. It can correct:

  • Hyperopia (long-sight)
  • Myopia (short-sight)
  • Astigmatism
  • Reading glasses

LASIK can be done on many patients with a prescription of up to -10 diopters. However, chances of being a good candidate begin decreasing after -6 due to lack of cornea thickness and shape.

LASIK is one of the most affordable corrective vision procedures. It’s also one of the safest surgical treatments, with technological advancements continuously improving, reducing risks and boosting effectiveness.

That said, nothing is perfect. 

While risks are incredibly low, all surgeries have a level of risk, and LASIK is no different.

Complications can include dry eye, eye infections, or halos or glare. You can read more about laser eye surgery risks here.

To get the best results from LASIK, patients must meet a strict set of criteria, meaning only some are suitable, particularly those with severe myopia, thin corneas, or pre-existing dry eyes.

If LASIK is not suitable, options like ICL come into play.

ICL Pros & Cons

ICL (Implantable Collamer Lens, Implantable Contact Lens) is a vision correction procedure that implants a corrective lens, like wearing a permanent contact between the iris and natural lens. 

While the core of the technology is not new, interest has risen sharply as new lenses have been developed. For example, the latest EVO+ VISIAN lens from STAAR Surgical Company received FDA approval in the US in early 2022. 

ICL does not cause permanent changes to the eye. So if your vision changes, e.g. your prescription worsens, your surgeon can replace the original lens with a different power implant. Because it is a lens, additional benefits like UV protection are also present.

ICL is not as popular as LASIK, and the cost of the lenses means the procedure is more expensive than LASIK. 

However, ICL is an excellent option for people too short-sighted for LASIK, as the implants can correct as much as -18 diopters.

ICL is also better for people with dry eyes or thin corneas and provides better results for specific issues, such as night driving.

Even people with more severe myopia may be interested in ICL, as having a partial correction reduces the weight of their glasses.

ICL takes slightly longer than LASIK, but not substantially, averaging around 15-30 minutes per eye. 

The procedure is limited to patients under 60 (although most are under 50) and carries slightly more risk than LASIK. ICL is an intraocular procedure because a lens is inserted inside the eye, whereas LASIK is not.

There is an increased risk of infection compared to LASIK.

ICL can also lead to an increased risk of cataracts. However, modern ICL lenses are not prone to causing cataracts as pre-2007 lenses did.

Although ICL may be seen as an alternative procedure, it does have some benefits over LASIK.

The lenses can offer UV protection, often produce better night vision results, and the procedure is also reversible, should there ever be a need. ICL can also correct more severe prescriptions.


Selecting a corrective eye procedure depends on your individual needs and prescription. 

Those who aren’t suitable for LASIK or who wish to avoid any permanent changes to the eye will find ICL an attractive option. 

However, LASIK and PRK are the more affordable and less invasive options.

If you need help deciding which procedure to choose, schedule your free telephone consultation with a Focus Clinics team member. They’ll be happy to discuss the options and advise which approach suits your prescription and personal situation.

About the Author

Mr David Allamby is the founder and medical director of Focus Clinic - the leading provider of laser eye surgery in London. Focus’ commitment is to be the #1 clinic for vision outcome results with 100% of patients achieving 20/20 vision or even better. He is one of a limited number of UK surgeons who work in laser refractive surgery full-time.


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