LASIK Surgery vs. ICLs By Andrew Holzman on January 05, 2012

LASIK surgery is, by far, the most popular refractive surgery procedure in the United States. The treatment can permanently correct myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism, the refractive errors that result in blurry vision at near and/or far distances. But LASIK is not the only refractive treatment that can reduce patients' dependency on glasses and contact lenses with relatively few side effects. The placement of ICLs (implantable contact lenses) is an excellent alternative for patients that are not suitable candidates for LASIK surgery or are interested in other treatment options. In this blog post, I review the similarities and differences between LASIK vision correction and the placement of ICLs, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each treatment.


The major difference between LASIK surgery and the placement of ICLs is the manner in which these procedures are performed.

  • LASIK Surgery:In LASIK surgery, a microkeratome or Intralase laser is used to create a three-sided flap in the outer layers of the cornea. Once the flap is opened, an excimer laser is used to reshape the cornea so that light properly reflects off of the retina.
  • ICLs:During ICL surgery, a small incision is created in the cornea; the ICL is then inserted into the eye, in front of the lens and behind the iris. Unlike regular contact lenses, patients will not be able to feel the ICL after it has been placed in the eye.

Each procedure also carries with it some unique risks:

  • LASIK:Flap wrinkles, central corneal islands, epithelial ingrowths, corneal ecstasia, diffuse lamellar keratitis, astigmatism, and dry eye
  • ICLs:Increased intraocular pressure, the need for repositioning of the lens, injury to the crystalline lens, early development of cataracts, and retinal detachment

There are some other key differences between the two procedures, including:

  • The ICL procedure can be reversed, while LASIK involves the permanent removal of corneal tissue. (Enhancements to LASIK can be performed to change the prescription if a "reversal" would be desired however)
  • The ICL procedure is typically priced higher than LASIK surgery.
  • The ICL treatment is suitable for patients that have higher degrees of nearsightedness and farsightedness, whereas LASIK surgery is generally performed on patients with mild to moderate refractive errors.
  • Patients with severe dry eye, thin corneas, or other corneal problems are generally not good candidates for LASIK, but may be appropriate candidates for the ICL procedure.
  • The ICL procedure takes about 30 minutes to perform, while the LASIK procedure takes about 10 minutes.


Although LASIK and the placement of ICLs are distinctly different refractive procedures, they do share some similarities, including the ability to:

  • Reduce or eliminate patients' need for eyeglasses or contact lenses
  • Permanently treat myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism
  • Produce improved, clearer vision within 24 hours
  • Rarely can heal with side effects such as over correction, under correction, infection, halos, glare, double vision, visual regression

At TLC Tysons Corner, a leading Virginia LASIK practice, my team and I are committed to educating each of our patients about the vision correction options that will help them achieve clear vision. To schedule your personal consultation with us, contact TLC Tysons Corner today.

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Dr. Andrew Holzman

Andrew E. Holzman, MD, FACS

Andrew E. Holzman, MD, FACS, is one of the most well-respected ophthalmologists in the greater Washington, DC, area. He is regularly sought out by professional athletes, media personalities, and other doctors for laser eye surgery. Dr. Holzman is a member of several prestigious organizations, including:

  • The American Academy of Ophthalmology
  • The American College of Surgeons
  • The American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery
  • The American Medical Association
  • The International Society of Refractive Surgery

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