ICL (implantable contact lenses) / phakic lens surgery

Many patients with severe ametropia are looking for a way to permanently get rid of glasses or contact lenses. If laser treatment is not possible or not desired, so-called ICL or phake lenses can be a worthwhile alternative. These are implantable contact lenses that remain permanently in the eye.

The phake lens surgery takes only a few minutes and does not cause any pain. Shortly after the procedure, patients can see sharply and clearly without a visual aid. The inserted lenses usually last a lifetime. Replacement is only necessary if other problems arise, such as presbyopia.

What are phakic lenses (ICL)?

The abbreviation ICL stands for "implantable collamer lens". It is a so-called intraocular implantable contact lens, i.e. an artificial lens that supplements the natural lens of the eye. In the case of the phakic lens, only an existing defective vision is corrected, just as it is done with glasses or contact lenses. The ICL lens is not a substitute for the natural lens of the eye.

During ICL surgery, the artificial lens is implanted in front of the natural lens. There it is neither visible nor noticeable for the patient. In contrast to laser treatment, ICL treatment is reversible. This means that it can be reversed at any time by removing the phake lens.

For whom is phake lens surgery suitable?

We offer phake lens surgery for all patients who want a permanent and inconspicuous alternative to glasses. ICL lenses are especially recommended for younger patients with higher myopia, hyperopia or astigmatism. Phakic lenses can also be used to treat astigmatism. The following values give a rough indication of which refractive errors are treatable:

  • Nearsightedness: up to approx. -20 diopters
  • Farsightedness: up to approx. +12 diopters
  • astigmatism: up to approx. 6 diopters with simultaneous nearsightedness or farsightedness

A prerequisite for successful treatment is that the visual acuity is stable over a longer period of time. This usually requires a minimum age of about 25 years. Older patients may be recommended to have their natural lens replaced, as the first clouding often occurs with increasing age. If the lens is still clear and no cataract has been diagnosed, we speak of a Clear- Lens- Exchange (CLE). In this case, a so-called multifocal lens is used. If the patient wishes to be free of glasses, a CLE can be used to correct presbyopia, but also short-sightedness, long-sightedness or astigmatism at the same time.

With certain pre-existing conditions, contact lens implantation may not be possible. This concerns, for example, inflammatory eye diseases and immune diseases such as diabetes. Your treating ophthalmologist will advise you in detail before the operation whether phakic lenses are the right choice for you and what other treatment options are available.

What is the procedure for ICL surgery?

Before the operation, your eyes are precisely measured. Based on the data obtained, your implantable contact lenses are then custom-made. You are not allowed to wear your previous contact lenses in the weeks before the measurement, as this could falsify the values. Therefore, it may be necessary to wear glasses for this period.

The phakic lens surgery itself is a short procedure. The procedure is similar to cataract surgery, which is a routine ophthalmologic procedure. The surgeon makes a tiny incision on the cornea, through which he then inserts the artificial lens. The small incision closes by itself after the operation.

After the operation, the eye is dressed with a bandage and you can go home the same day. Please note, however, that you are not allowed to drive yourself directly after the operation.

What happens after the operation?

The day after the ICL implantation, we already perform the first follow-up check. The eye bandage can already be removed at this time. You will see sharply immediately after the phakic lens operation, although the quality of vision may still fluctuate during the first few weeks. After about 4 weeks, the vision should have normalized so that we can assess the success of the treatment.

In general, the quality of vision after lens implantation is comparable to that of glasses or ordinary contact lenses. Many patients even report improved vision.

What should be considered after the ICL surgery?

After ICL surgery, you should rest for a few days and not touch the eye area unnecessarily. You should also avoid the eye area when washing and applying cosmetics. Light sports and simple everyday activities are usually possible again the day after the operation. You should refrain from physically strenuous activities for about 14 days.

What complications can occur?

ICL surgery is a procedure that is performed regularly in our eye clinic. Serious complications are therefore extremely rare. As with any surgical procedure, problems such as infections or bleeding can still occur in individual cases.

Occasionally, undesirable light effects, restrictions in night vision or lens clouding occur after the operation. Also, in rare cases, intraocular pressure may increase, requiring appropriate treatment.

For your safety, we perform regular follow-up examinations. You should also contact your ophthalmologist immediately if you experience unexpected pain or problems with your vision.

Do the ICL lenses need to be replaced?

The implanted phakic lenses are designed for lifelong use. As long as no discomfort occurs, no replacement is necessary. The lenses should only be replaced if, for example, presbyopia or a cataract occurs. In this case, a change is possible without any problems.

If your visual acuity changes after surgery, the lenses can also be changed. As a rule, however, phakic lens surgery is only performed if your visual acuity is stable. Therefore, a significant fluctuation in visual acuity is not to be expected.