Many people with moderate to severe nearsightedness have successfully corrected their vision with LASIK, a popular refractive surgery that uses a computer-controlled laser to reshape the cornea. But not everyone is a good candidate for LASIK, including patients with severe nearsightedness, very thin or irregularly shaped corneas, eye conditions such as keratoconus, or chronically dry eyes. For these patients, implantable lenses—phakic intraocular lenses—provide a life-changing alternative to glasses and contact lenses.
“Implantable lenses function like contact lenses, but they work from within the eye instead of sitting on the surface of the eye,” said Sandy T. Feldman, MD, a San Diego-based physician who is considered one of the top ophthalmologists in the country. “You can’t feel them at all, they are maintenance-free, and best of all, they can permanently correct nearsightedness.”
Dr. Feldman specializes in the use of the FDA-approved Visian Implantable Collamer Lens, which is made of a soft biocompatible material that can be folded and inserted through a small incision. The Visian ICL is implanted behind the iris, in front of the natural lens of the eye. This type of lens does not treat astigmatism and has been known to cause cataracts in a small percentage of people, although recent modifications have decreased the risk of cataracts. The lens is undetectable to the naked eye and can only be seen through a microscope.
Implantable lens surgery is an elective procedure that requires topical drops to numb the eye as well as IV sedation, and typically takes about 15 minutes. Instead of a blade, Dr. Feldman uses an innovative new technology—the femtosecond laser—that allows for a very small and precise incision. Patients can see out of the eye immediately and recovery time is virtually overnight.
“Implantable lenses are a good choice for people who are extremely nearsighted and might not get enough correction with a LASIK procedure,” said Dr. Feldman. “For people who have more moderate nearsightedness, the choice isn’t as clear. It’s important to ask your ophthalmologist to explain the benefits and risks of each surgery.”
Dr. Feldman suggests six key questions to determine if implantable lenses are right for you:
- Is your vision within the accepted range approved for this type of procedure?
- Have you had a comprehensive eye exam to determine that your eyes can safely accommodate implantable lenses?
- Are you between 21 and 40? If you’re outside this age range, you may still be a candidate for an implantable lens; consult your eye doctor.
- Has your eyeglass / contact lens prescription changed in the past year? For vision correction surgeries, you must have stable vision for at least one year.
- Conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma and untreated eye infections generally prevent you from having an implantable lens.
- Are you in good health? Certain conditions—such as Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, HIV and AIDS—and certain medications, such as steroids and immunosuppressants, may interfere with healing and final outcomes.
“There are a lot of factors to consider, but the good news is that patients with this kind of implantable lens are usually very satisfied with the quality of their corrected vision,” said Dr. Feldman. “Being able to wake up in the morning and see clearly, without contacts or eyeglasses, can make a huge difference in a person’s quality of life.”
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