Author: Dr Val Phua MBBS, MMed (Ophth), FRCOphth, FAMS
Photo by: Averie Woodard
In Singapore, Implantable Collamer Lens (ICL) Surgery is a popular procedure to achieve freedom from glasses and contact lenses. Those who have undergone ICL surgery often describe it as life-changing. Here are 5 key things to know about ICL in Singapore.
1. It can correct high degrees of myopia
Myopia is common in Singapore. Just look around you and you will notice that more people wear glasses than not. While LASIK surgery is a good option for correcting myopia and achieving glasses freedom, not everyone may be suitable for it. This boils down to several factors including the degree of myopia and corneal thickness amongst other factors. In patients with high myopia, e.g. 1000 “degrees”, correcting this with LASIK can lead to problems down the years such as reshaping of the cornea over time. In contrast, ICL surgery is able to correct up to 2000 “degrees” without permanently altering the shape of the cornea. This lens is customised to your eye after doing a thorough assessment and it can also correct up to 400 “degrees” of astigmatism. If you have been told that you were unsuitable for LASIK, ICL surgery may be an option for you.
2. It does not cause dry eyes
Unlike other means of laser vision correction like PRK, LASIK and SMILE surgery, ICL surgery does not involve permanent changes to the cornea. This results in patients having less damage to the corneal nerves and hence less dry eyes. Dry eyes are common in the population affecting about 7% of individuals. In some, dry eyes can be severe and debilitating, requiring frequent eye drops. These patients may want to avoid laser vision correction as it can worsen the dry eyes symptoms. ICL surgery can be an effective alternative to not only correct the short-sightedness and astigmatism present, it also avoids the potential worsening of dry eyes.
3. It is a reversible procedure
ICL surgery involves inserting a biocompatible artificial lens through a small wound in the cornea. This lens sits behind the iris (the brown part of the eye in most Asians) and in front of the natural lens in the eye. Once the lens is in place, it remains there quite stably. Should there be changes on the degree in the eye over the years or should there be any issues with the lens, the ICL lens can easily be removed. Some patients have concerns about having an ICL lens in the eye can cataract surgery. A cataract occurs when the natural lens in the eye turns cloudy and obstructs vision. When the time and cataract surgery is needed, the ICL lens can be removed at the same sitting and cataract surgery can proceed as usual.
4. It is painless
On the day of surgery, the eye is made numb with anesthetic eye drops. The ICL lens is inserted into the eye through a small corneal wound about 3mm wide. This wound is created with a sharp blade and is completely painless. Some patients worry about pain during the recovery period but in most patients, the recovery is actually quite comfortable. While the wounds are still fresh and healing, there may be some discomfort in the eye and some may also feel a stinging sensation when instilling the postoperative eye drops. This discomfort quickly fades by the day making the whole experience quite comfortable.
5. Recovery is quick
The material of the ICL lens is soft, allowing it to be inserted through a very small wound in the cornea. This wound is not only small, it is also self-sealing and does not require any sutures to keep it closed. Vision recovery is quick, allowing patients to resume their daily activities in just a few short days of rest. Inflammation in the eye is normal and expected and this tends to decrease slowly over 2-4 weeks. By 1 month, the wounds are so stable that you can even resume swimming without any worry.