Is ICL safe, or is there a risk of side effects such as cataracts?

Doctor's Answers (2)


You’re right! If you are not a good candidate for LASIK, you may wish to consider ICL as an option. You are also right that ICL does increase your risk of cataract formation.

To explain, ICL is an invasive procedure in which a collamer lens is implanted inside the eye. The ICL sits immediately above the natural lens, hence any contact with the natural lens may result in early cataract formation.

Since ICL, unlike LASIK, involves an intraocular surgery, it has slightly higher risks than LASIK, including infection, cataract, glaucoma and cornea injury. Having said that, the overall risks are still low under an experienced surgeons’ hands. ICL has been around for more than 10 years, with more than half a million implants done worldwide. I’ve seen many patients who are happy with their ICL.

You might like to know that there are other options available to remove the need for spectacles, namely cataract extraction. As the name implies, this is most suitable for patients who have pre-existing cataracts. It is not uncommon for people with high myopia to have early cataracts. This is especially so for those who are older. In fact, the presence of a cataract is a disqualifying criteria for ICL. Hence it is important to be checked for cataracts before considering ICL. The downside of cataract extraction is the quickening of presbyopia or ‘lao hua’.

There are various options available for those who wish to become more spectacle-independent, each with their own risk profiles. It is important for your eye doctor to discuss these with you and match your needs to the most suitable treatment.

I hope this was helpful to you. 

Dr David Chan

"Ophthalmologist with over 20 years of experience"


First and foremost, permit me to put your mind at ease. Not wearing glasses in an adult does not have direct bearing on the stability of your refractive error. Any residual refractive error following LASIK or any other forms of laser refractive surgery (ReLEx SMILE or TransPRK) does not increase merely because the patient fails to wears spectacles.

ICL is a potential consideration for patients whose corneas may be too thin or refractive errors too high for LASIK or any other forms of laser refractive surgery. ICL has been in use for over a decade now. Over the years, it has undergone several modifications with the new generation improving on the last generation’s safety profile.

Indeed, one of the known potential risks of complication following ICL implantation is that of early cataract formation. The risk can be minimised through careful patient selection and meticulous surgery. With all things relating to surgery, risks of complications are an ever present consideration and one in which the patient has to make the final decision after weighing both risks and potential benefits. Work closely with your trusted eye surgeon. I hope you find success in your search for spectacles independence.

Dr David Chan 

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