What are implantable contact lenses?

You can permanently embed lenses into your eyes with a clever bit of surgery

(Image credit: Martin Slavoljubovski/ Pixabay)

Being able to see our surroundings clearly enhances our lives and determines what we can do. For most it is a necessity, improving safety and allowing independence in daily activities. Some people are blessed with perfect vision, taking for granted the ability to see well naturally. It can be something of an inconvenience and a daily reminder of poor vision when the first act of every morning is to fumble for your glasses just to see the end of your bed. So what if there was a way to emulate the eyesight you wish you had permanently?

Would you consider a surgical implant to achieve this? One option considered by many are implantable contact lenses. These invisible aids are mainly an option for those who suffer from myopia – meaning they are short-sighted. Sitting inside your eyes, they provide people with constant high-quality sight.

Called Implantable Collamer Lenses (ICL), they work next to your eyes’ natural crystalline lenses to bend light rays onto the retina. In doing this, images presented in daily life become clearer. Wearers don’t feel the embedded lenses against the eyelid as they would when wearing temporary and removable contacts.

Over 50 years since the manufacture of the first modern contact lenses began, these convenient optical aids and their applications continue to develop, allowing millions of people to retain their sight when nature has failed them.

How are they implanted?

Permanent eyesight perfection may sound like a dream, but first there is a procedure to endure that involves cutting into these precious organs. These contact lenses are placed either between the cornea and the iris or just behind the iris.

In this process, which can take around 20 minutes per eye, the natural eye lens remains intact. Limiting the invasive aspect of the surgery, the contact lenses’ material enables them to be folded for insertion. This reduces the size of the hole that needs to be cut into the eye. The total depth of the incision is about 2.5 mm. Before the lens enters the eye, a gel is first applied to prevent any damage. Finally in place behind the iris, the lens is rotated to the correct position.

When the procedure is complete, it can take a couple of months to fully heal, but most people can return to daily activities in a matter of a few days. The implanted lens doesn’t change over time, but the eye’s natural lens can change. For this reason those with lens implants are recommended to attend check-ups. 

(Image credit x5 : Augen33/WIkimedia Commons)

What happens if my vision changes?

Committing to implantable contact lenses doesn’t mean you are stuck with them for life. Should they no longer suit your vision, or if you simply don’t want them anymore, they can be replaced or removed. This is because this surgery doesn’t change the shape of the cornea, or its function. While you can change your contacts as and when your prescription changes, it is worth analysing the stability of your eyesight and the potential of multiple surgeries.


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