If laser eye surgery isn’t right for you, you might be considering a procedure to insert a permanent contact lens, such as Phakic IOL surgery or refractive lens exchange. If so, it’s important to understand potential implantable contact lens risks, as well as the likely benefits. Let’s take a detailed look at the procedure, assess the risks and compare them with the other vision correction treatments on offer.

Why choose an IOL?

Intraocular lenses (IOLs for short) offer a convenient and permanent way to correct vision in patients with myopia, hypermetropia and astigmatism. They’re often a great choice for patients who are not suited to laser eye surgery, perhaps because of dry eyes or thin corneas. They are also a promising option as implantable contact lens risks are relatively low, and most complications are easily correctible.

  • Implantable contact lens diagramPhakik IOL surgery is less invasive than laser eye surgery because it involves no tissue removal, just a tiny incision through which the new implantable contact lens is inserted. It’s also completely reversible, as the lens can be removed if desired. This makes it a lower-risk option that is especially suited to patients with higher prescriptions, or those whose corneas are too thin for laser eye surgery.
  • For older patients with signs of cataracts in addition to refractive vision problems, the refractive lens exchange procedure is another option for inserting implantable contact lenses. The main treatment for cataracts, this procedure involves treating both conditions at once, removing the cataracts and implanting an IOL to correct the vision.

Potential risks associated with implantable IOLs

Implantable contact lens risks are low, and research into implantable contact lenses carried out by Allon Barsam shows that for patients with extreme myopia, it is a safer option than laser eye surgery. However, as with any surgical procedure, there remains a small element of risk.

  • Overcorrection happens when the correction offered by the implantable lens goes too far; if this happens, your eyesight will need to be corrected back the other way so that your eyes can focus properly. The good news is, this can be easily fixed by removing the original lens and inserting one with the correct prescription – or simply by wearing spectacles.
  • Undercorrection is a similar small risk associated with IOLs; it happens if the lenses implanted don’t go far enough to correct your vision. Again, it’s easily rectified with a second procedure.
  • Infection is a risk associated with all forms of surgery, but because it involves keyhole surgery, the risk associated with implantable contact lenses is minimal.
  • Serious complications such as intraocular pressure, retinal detachment, damage to the eye’s crystalline lens and even vision loss are very rare, but remain a remote possibility. Choosing an experienced and reputable eye surgeon can help to minimise the risks.

The benefits of IOLs

Although risks are always present when you undergo surgery, they have to be weighed up against the benefits of having the procedure. Read about how implantable contact lens surgery can be life-changing, and how one patient has benefited from clearer vision.