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What are Phakic IOLs?

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  • Written By: Donn Saylor
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
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Phakic intraocular lenses (IOLs) are implantable contact lenses that are surgically embedded in the eye for the treatment of nearsightedness. These lenses are pain-free and require no maintenance or special upkeep, and they eliminate the necessity of wearing glasses or regular disposable contact lenses. Phakic lenses, sometimes called ICLs (implantable contact lenses) or phakic intraocular lenses, have been known to provide better results than the more common corrective laser surgeries.

The aim of phakic IOLs is to eradicate myopia, or nearsightedness. Phakic lenses direct light entering the eye to center on the retina. This provides clarity of vision when viewing long distances. Nearsightedness, however, can also be corrected with glasses or contact lenses, which is a much more cost effective way of tackling the condition. An eye specialist will typically consider implantable lenses when a patient has thin corneas or a particularly serious case of myopia.

Comprised of either silicone or plastic, phakic IOLs are inserted into the eye without removing the eye's biological lens. After a small cut is made into the surface of the eye, the phakic lens is fed through the incision and affixed either in front of or in back of the iris. The incision may then be stitched up, depending on the severity of the cut. The entire surgical process lasts about 30 minutes and is an outpatient procedure.

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Risks with these implantable lenses are numerous, and possible candidates for implantation do not take them lightly. Some of the potential pitfalls include loss or erosion of vision, retinal detachment, infection, and inflammation. Night driving may also become a problem. Though the risks are grave and merit serious deliberation, the actual chances of contracting any of these issues is relatively small.

There are some considerations to bear in mind when deciding whether to receive phakic IOLs. Many insurance companies, for instance, do not cover refractive surgery, so the patient may well have to foot the bill for the procedure. There are certain medical issues, like diabetes and autoimmune diseases, and medication usage which may impact the eye's ability to heal after surgery. Existing eye conditions like large pupils, atypically shaped irises, glaucoma, or eye injury or inflammation may also have a negative effect on phakic lens surgery and the subsequent healing process.

Patients weighing the options, risks, and considerations of phakic lenses are frequently reminded of the fact that the implants are meant to be a permanent fix. Though they can be removed with surgery, the removal process is inherently risky. A patient cannot be promised that his or her level of vision will remain as strong after the removal procedure.

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