LASIK vs. ICL – Picking What’s Right For You

Las Vegas eye doctors checking optical equipment
Brett Brimhall
Brett Brimhall

If you’re looking to ditch your prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses permanently, and are trying to decide between LASIK vs. ICL vision correction treatments, the right choice for you will depend on a few factors. LASIK and ICL are both safe, and effective treatments with excellent results, that are long-term solutions to refractive error correction, but have distinct differences between them in terms of the procedure itself, and how they compare across candidacy, advantages and disadvantages, costs, and recovery time. To help you decide which one is right for you, let’s compare LASIK vs. ICL in more detail.

Defining the Surgeries – LASIK vs. ICL – What They Are & How They Work

Before we jump into how these two treatments compare across advantages, side effects, costs, recovery times, and more, let’s first take a look at the procedures themselves and what they entail.

  • LASIK (Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis) is a type of vision correction surgery that is performed with an excimer laser to reshape the cornea and improve vision. LASIK is a fast, painless procedure that can be completed in about 10 minutes per eye. During LASIK, the laser is used to make precise cuts in the outer cornea to create an ultra-thin flap that can be pulled back, allowing easy access to the tissue underneath. Then, a computer-guided laser is used to reshape the cornea to correct your vision. Afterward, the flap is laid back into place and allowed to heal naturally. LASIK is used to correct refractive errors like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.
  • ICL (Implantable Collamer Lenses) is a newer type of vision correction surgery that involves the implantation of a Phakic intraocular lens into the eye. The lens is made of a special, soft material that can be folded and inserted through a small incision into position just behind your iris but in front of your natural lens. Unlike LASIK which reshapes your cornea to clear up your vision, ICL works by changing the way light bends as it passes through your eye, which is beneficial for individuals who have high degrees of nearsightedness that LASIK cannot correct. ICL does not treat farsightedness but can treat astigmatism with the newest Toric ICL’s.

How Does ICL vs. LASIK Compare Across Candidacy, Advantages, Side Effects, Cost, and Recovery?

Both ICL vs. LASIK are excellent vision correction treatments that offer long-term results with minimal downtime. However, there are a few key distinctions between LASIK and ICL that you should consider when deciding which treatment is right for you.

Candidacy

There is some overlap in candidacy for both LASIK vs. ICL, which includes a stable prescription and having a refractive error that is not rapidly progressing. You must also be in good overall health, have no health conditions that slow healing, and do not have certain eye conditions like cataracts or glaucoma. From here, though, there are some key differences between the two:

  1. ICLs are good to treat severe nearsightedness and astigmatism with Toric IOLs, whereas, LASIK can treat a wide range of refractive errors.
  2. ICLs are recommended for individuals under the age of 45, while LASIK can be successfully completed in older adults between 40-60.
  3. ICLs are good for individuals who have thin corneas, chronic dry eye, or keratoconus (where the cornea becomes cone-shaped). LASIK is not recommended for individuals with thin corneas, or other eye conditions like diabetic retinopathy.

Advantages/Disadvantages

When looking at the advantages versus the disadvantages of LASIK vs. ICL, we see that ICL has more unique benefits than LASIK, but LASIK has more flexibility in terms of candidacy and overall treatment. Let’s outline what this looks like:

  1. LASIK can treat a wider range of refractive errors over ICL, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism, whereas ICL can only treat moderate-severe myopia and astigmatism with Toric ICLs as noted above.
  2. While LASIK isn’t recommended for older adults, many middle-aged individuals undergo LASIK successfully. Those over the age of 45 are generally not recommended for ICL.
  3. ICL does not remove any tissue, unlike LASIK. This leads to ICL having better cornea stability, leading to clearer vision, and those with thinner corneas are eligible to receive this treatment. If you need LASIK in the future, you may not be able to get it if you do not have enough corneal tissue left to safely complete the surgery a second time.
  4. ICL lenses are biocompatible and can help protect the eye from the sun’s harmful UV rays, while still allowing natural light to pass through without alteration. This UV protection has an advantage in that it reduces the chances of developing certain eye conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration.
  5. ICL is a reversible procedure, whereas LASIK is not, as LASIK permanently alters the cornea. This means that the patient (you) retains the option to have your ICL lenses removed, have their power changed in accordance with your needs, or opt to have a completely different surgical treatment. So, even though ICL permanently corrects your vision, it can be removed or replaced if necessary.
  6. LASIK may induce temporary symptoms of dry eye which can often last for a few weeks after surgery. While not a serious complication of LASIK, it can cause annoying symptoms like burning/stinging/itching sensations, redness in the eye, mucus discharge, sensitivity to light, eye strain, blurred vision, and foreign body sensations in the eye. ICL patients often report fewer symptoms, but may complain of temporary symptoms of halos and glare around lights.

Costs

In terms of the costs associated with LASIK vs. ICL, these can vary significantly depending on the surgeon, the complexity of the procedure, and your geographical region. LASIK wins out over ICL in this category, as the average cost of LASIK is $2,000-$3,000 per eye, while ICL procedures are $7,000-$9,000 per eye. LASIK is simply more accessible as it has more surgeons trained on it, while ICL procedures are more specialized.

It is important to note here that with both LASIK vs. ICL, you can be undercorrected or overcorrected, meaning that you may need additional procedures to fine-tune your vision. This can increase the overall cost of both, and should be taken into account when choosing which treatment is right for you.

Recovery Time

When comparing the recovery time between LASIK vs. ICL, LASIK patients are typically able to resume their normal activities within 24-hours to a few days after the procedure. They may experience some symptoms like glares or halos around lights, blurry vision, or dry eyes, but vision will gradually improve, and all side effects typically disappear within 3-months (sometimes longer). For ICL patients, the initial recovery time to reach full vision clarity is a little bit longer, at about 7-days, with some mild discomfort as the eye adjusts to the new lens.

Find the Best Treatment with Brimhall Eye in Las Vegas

LASIK vs. ICL are both effective treatments for correcting vision; however, LASIK is generally more accessible to patients, while ICL is great for individuals with severe myopia. Depending on the complexity of the procedure and geographic region, LASIK tends to have a lower cost than ICL; however, recovery time may vary between treatments. If you’re considering LASIK or ICL treatment for your vision, contact Brimhall Eye in Las Vegas today to discuss which option works best for your individual vision needs.

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