If your eyesight isn’t all that great, you’ve probably done a little research into LASIK and perhaps even ICL surgery.
LASIK has been around for decades. It was developed in the 1970s, and approved by the Food and Drug Administration to correct eyesight deficiencies quite a bit later, in 1995. Just ten years later, another type of corrective eye surgery, Implantable Collamer Lens, or ICL, was approved.
So what’s the difference when you compare LASIK vs ICL?
ICL Surgery vs LASIK: There is a Difference!
ICL surgery implants a new lens to work with the one you already have. The new lens is inserted between the existing one and the cornea through a tiny incision.
LASIK, which stands for Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis, actually reshapes the eyeball itself to correct vision.
Both are surgeries and both have pretty good results. Notably, ICL was developed not as an alternative to LASIK but as an option for patients who weren’t good candidates for LASIK because their myopia (nearsightedness) is considered too severe for it, or have dry eyes or a thin cornea. While ICL surgery makes an incision in the cornea, LASIK actually reshapes it, so it can’t be too thin.
What makes a cornea thin?
- Keratoconus, a disease of the cornea that causes its middle to thin and bulge out. It’s the most common form of corneal disease in the US and affects teenagers and young adults. It may be genetic.
- Eye rubbing, which may be caused by keratoconus and make it worse!
- Injury to the deeper layers of the cornea, particularly tears or splits.
Here are two major differences between the two:
1. ICL surgery isn’t permanent. Lenses can be removed, and some may need to be removed and replaced over time.
2. Patients with astigmatism should not have ICL. LASIK can repair this, but it may return over time in some patients.
LASIK vs ICL: Is One Safer or More Successful?
Now that you know the difference between the two, the logical follow-up question is probably which one is safer or more successful, assuming you’re a candidate for either procedure.
There are major kinds of LASIK to consider — so-called bladeless LASIK, and traditional LASIK. Both cut into the eye, but they use different tools to create the LASIK flap. Both procedures have extremely high safety and success rates. It’s best to follow your surgeon’s recommendation, and like many artisans, some surgeons just prefer one type of tool over another.
The only notable difference in terms of safety is that some surgeons think traditional LASIK may be safer for patients with glaucoma.
As for overall LASIK vs ICL safety, there’s really no clear-cut winner. It’s easy to assume that ICL, which makes a minimal cut, would be safer but the evidence just doesn’t show it. Both are quite safe. The main difference is that ICL can provide a better outcome for certain patients.
As eye surgeons continue to become more skilled in differentiating between candidates for ICL vs LASIK, patient outcomes will improve. Keep in mind, too, that LASIK continues to be the benchmark for surgically treating myopia and hyperopia (farsightedness), and ICL has some catching up to do.
Both surgeries are done on an outpatient basis, and patients go home the same day. Recovery time for both surgeries is within a day or two.
The Money Factor in LASIK vs ICL
LASIK generally costs about $2200 per eye, while ICL can cost as much as $5,000. Few insurance companies cover either procedure, although improved eyesight can certainly increase personal safety.