Intraocular lenses are implanted in the eye. Two intraocular techniques are available at the Halifax Eye Institute: Phakic Intraocular Lenses – often referred to as an Implantable Contact Lens (ICL) and Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE).
Until recently, the crystalline lens was removed only when cataracts were present. Then some surgeons realized that the crystalline lens could be removed and replaced with an IOL as a way to correct refractive errors in eyes without cataracts. This technique is called a Refractive Lens Exchange. The term applies because the crystalline lens is replaced with an artificial lens of a specific power to enhance vision.
RLE is offered in cases of very high degrees of nearsightedness or farsightedness, where LASIK and PRK are less effective. (PRK and LASIK are effective with low, moderate and high prescriptions. But neither PRK nor LASIK is optimum for extreme myopia or farsightedness.)
The lenses include both lenses for distance vision, astigmatism, and for all ranges of vision including distance and near offering bifocal correction.
The phakic IOL technique (ICL) is similar to the clear lens exchange in that an artificial lens is implanted in the eye. However, with a phakic IOL, the patient’s crystalline lens is not removed. In the phakic IOL procedure, an IOL is implanted just in front of the crystalline lens. (One company refers to its phakic IOL as an “implantable contact lens.”)
The advantage of the ICL is that, in younger patients, the crystalline lens remains, and the patient doesn’t lose the ability to accommodate. The ICL is ideal for highly nearsighted patients.
Both the RLE and the phakic IOL’s (ICL) are effective methods for the correction of extreme refractive errors. LASIK and PRK, the standard treatments for the vast majority of refractive errors, are less ideal for extreme refractive errors.