Lifewatch: Implantable Contact Lenses

CALIFORNIA -- Millions of Americans suffer from nearsightedness, and for many, there is nothing they can do about it, short of wearing glasses.

Now, there is a new alternative that even works for people who are not good candidates for Lasik eye surgery.

Special education teacher Angela Naughton spends her summers in far-off lands, tutoring students around the globe.

"England, Ireland, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and Tanzania," said Naughton.

As someone with extremely poor vision, Angela's nightmare was being stranded with no contacts or glasses.

"If anything went wrong there I couldn't get another pair of glasses 'cause mail took too long to get there," said Naughton.

She looked at Lasik surgery, but was consistently turned away by doctors who said Naughton was a poor candidate for the procedure.

"We found that her corneas were too thin, which is common nowadays for a lot of people. In other words, there was not enough tissue to safely do the Lasik procedure," said Dr. Steve H. Chang.

Dr. Chang recommended implantable contact lenses, a procedure that implants a collamer lens behind the patient's iris and restores 20-20 vision.

"We make a few very, very small incisions, less than three millimeters, where the white of the eye meets the colored part of the eye. We inject a substance in there to keep the space in the eye and then gently inject the lens in, which unfolds inside the eye," said Dr. Chang.

The surgery doesn't alter the cornea as lasik does.

Implantable contact lenses are most effective in patients over the age of 21, and because collagen is formed naturally by the body, there's little risk of rejection.

The best part, if your prescription changes, the lens can be replaced.

Most implantable contact lens patients recover quickly and return to their normal routines the next day.


Pacific Vision Institute

One Daniel Burnham Court

San Francisco, CA 94109

(415) 922-9500

BACKGROUND: According to the American Optometric Association, 30 percent of Americans suffer from nearsightedness. Implantable contact lenses offer these individuals a corrective option besides glasses, contact lenses and LASIK surgery. Implantable contact lenses, or phakic intraocular lenses (Phakic IOLs), are lenses made of plastic or silicone that are implanted permanently into the eye to correct refractive errors, or errors in the eye's focusing ability. These lenses have been used on cataracts patients for many years, but have only recently been approved for correcting myopia and hyperopia. Phakic IOLs to correct nearsightedness received FDA approval in 2004.

BENEFITS: Besides the convenience of independence from glasses or contact lenses, phakic IOLs are advantageous for people who need vision correction that exceeds the safe range of laser surgery. In addition, phakic IOLs are removable if they don't work out for the patient.

RISKS: Like LASIK, this surgery carries risks. Potential complications include permanent vision loss, visual symptoms like glare and halos, cataract development, increased intraocular pressure, cornea cloudiness and retinal detachment. According to the FDA, since they only recently approved the procedure, there may be other risks not yet discovered.

PROCEDURE: After local anaesthetic is administered to numb the eye's surface, an incision is made in the eye. The phakic IOL is then inserted either in frontof or behind the iris. If necessary, the incision is closed with tiny stitches. The surgery takes about 30 minutes. After resting the day of surgery, most people can return to work the next day; however, eyesight may not stabilize completely for several weeks. According to the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center, a good candidate for the phakic IOL procedure is a nearsighted individual between the ages of 21 and 45. In addition, patients that have not undergone previous ophthalmic surgery and do not have a history of eye disease including iritis, glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy are preferred.

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