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Visian ICL vs. LASIK: A Comparison Guide

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When it comes to the choice between Visian ICL vs. LASIK, it ultimately depends on individual factors. Some patients are generally better suited for one procedure over the other, depending on their particular needs. There are numerous differences between these two procedures.

LASIK is a procedure that can correct myopia, hyperopia, or astigmatism by reshaping the cornea using an excimer laser. Visian ICL only works for myopia. It is like having permanent contact lenses, so the cornea’s shape is not changed.

More types of refractive errors can be corrected with LASIK, but people who have thin corneas or chronic dry eye may choose Visian ICLs instead to avoid potential side effects. LASIK is a shorter procedure, less expensive, and has a faster recovery time compared to Visian ICL. The lenses used with Visian ICL could have a potentially lower risk of side effects, may offer better long-term correction, and can be removed if needed.

The decision of which procedure is optimal for you is ultimately up to you and your eye doctor. Your eye professional can advise you on which option will work best for your specific situation.

Visian ICL vs LASIK: Many Differences With Good Outcomes

For many years, people who had refractive errors had only two options for managing their condition: glasses or contact lenses. These options require regular eye exams to monitor the progression of nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. Then, regular updates to the lens prescription are needed to continue correcting changes in the cornea.

Since the 1990s, medical researchers have created and improved new methods of managing refractive errors, including implantable lenses and laser-based surgery. These new treatment methods give patients more options than ever before that can ultimately free them from the daily commitment of contact lenses or glasses.

Laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) is one of the most popular developments since contact lenses for correcting refractive errors. A laser removes tissue from your cornea to reshape it, which causes light to refract more clearly to the back of your eye. There, the retina receives the light and transmits it to your brain through your optic nerve.

LASIK has allowed millions of people all over the world to stop wearing glasses or contact lenses. It offers an easy, quick solution that can be truly life-changing.

There are some reasons that someone would not be a good candidate for LASIK, which has led scientists to research other options. Implantable contact lenses, like the Visian ICL series, allow people who have thinner corneas or some other eye conditions to stop wearing glasses or contact lenses for years, without undergoing a laser-guided surgery.

If you want to stop wearing corrective lenses in glasses or contacts, which of these procedures would you choose? We can help you understand whether either option works for you. After you’ve gathered some basic information, work with your optometrist or ophthalmologist to determine the right procedure for your situation.

Visian ICL vs. LASIK

LASIK and Visian implantable collamer lenses (ICLs) are very different technologies that can correct your refractive error to 20/40 visual clarity or better, in certain circumstances. Before deciding which works best for your needs, it is important to understand both procedures.

  • LASIK: Although there are several types of laser eye surgery to correct refractive errors, LASIK is the most recognized type of this procedure and the most widely performed. This outpatient operation can correct myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness not due to aging), and astigmatism, so you can often see 20/40 or better.

    The process takes around 15 minutes per eye, with much of that time involving prep for the operation. You will receive numbing eye drops and a device to hold your eyelids open. Then, either a microkeratome (a special, small surgical knife) or a laser will cut a flap from the top of your cornea.

    Next, an excimer laser will remove tissue from strategic locations on the inside of the cornea to change its shape. The flap will be put back in place, and you will be sent home to relax for the rest of the day.

    Many people have good vision the next day, although you may experience dry eyes, halos or glares around lights, and some blurry vision for a few days. Most people experience a gradual decrease in these symptoms over six months, as their eyes heal.
  • Visian ICL: Although some surgery is involved with Visian implantable collamer lenses (ICLs), no lasers will remove tissue from your cornea to reshape that part of your eye. Instead, Visian ICLs are a brand of phakic intraocular lenses (IOLs), which are like permanent contact lenses. Visian ICLs are made by Staar Surgical, and they are designed to be implanted behind the iris, but in front of your natural lens. They were approved for use in adults by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2005 to treat nearsightedness.

    Unlike LASIK, Visian ICLs and other types of phakic IOLs do not treat other refractive errors, like farsightedness. If you have astigmatism along with myopia, you may experience some improvement in your astigmatism, but they are not designed to treat just astigmatism.

    Like LASIK, the implantation process for these flexible collamer lenses takes about 15 minutes per eye, using a very small incision from a laser or a microkeratome. Recovery time after this outpatient procedure is a little longer than LASIK, with vision returning to almost full clarity after seven days. Although healing takes more time, there are fewer side effects reported with Visian ICLs.

Who Benefits From Visian ICL vs. LASIK?

kid wearing glasses

Although LASIK and Visian ICLs are very different approaches to vision correction, there is some overlap in people who are good candidates or would benefit from these treatments. For both procedures:

  • You must be at least 21 years old to ensure your vision has stabilized.
  • Your refractive error must not be rapidly progressing.
  • You must be in overall good health and not have health issues that slow your healing time.
  • You must not have certain eye problems, like cataracts or glaucoma.

Despite these similarities in terms of requirements, LASIK and Visian ICLs can serve different populations. Here are some common differences between the two options:

  • Visian ICLs are only approved to treat nearsightedness, while LASIK can treat a wider range of refractive errors.
  • Visian ICLs are not a good option for people older than 45 years old. LASIK is not recommended for older adults either, but many middle-aged adults in their 40s and 50s receive LASIK without problems.
  • Visian ICLs are a good option for people who have thin corneas, keratoconus (a cone-like bump on the cornea), or chronic dry eye. LASIK can exacerbate dry eye, and it is not recommended for anyone with any other eye condition, including naturally thin corneas.
  • Visian ICLs do not remove any cornea tissue, while LASIK does.
  • Visian ICLs can, if necessary, be removed. LASIK cannot be reversed. Overcorrections from this operation require another type of laser-guided eye procedure with a longer recovery time.
  • Visian ICLs can offer UV protection, which can reduce damage to the internal structures of the eye. LASIK does not offer this kind of UV protection.

Pros and Cons of Visian ICL vs. LASIK


Millions of people around the world have improved vision thanks to this simple laser-based procedure, so it is well-tested. There are side effects that can negatively impact your life, but these side effects are generally minor and quickly improve during the healing process. Serious side effects are very rare.

  • Pros: LASIK is both quick and inexpensive. If you have both eyes corrected, you will be in your eye doctor’s office for about 30 minutes total.

    The cost of the operation varies depending on where you live, but the average cost is between $2,000 and $3,000 per eye. Since more people are pursuing LASIK and the overall costs are going down, your vision insurance may cover a portion of this procedure.

    Although you cannot drive yourself home and should take time to relax your eyes for the rest of the day after LASIK, you should have decent vision for most low-impact tasks the next day. It doesn’t require taking significant time off work.
  • Cons: There is a risk of side effects that can last for up to six months. Side effects can include halos or glares around lights, dry eyes, and poor night vision, though these generally improve within the months following surgery. Serious complications are extremely rare, with LASIK being considered one of the safest surgical procedures in existence.

    Certain medical conditions preclude you from getting LASIK, such as some types of autoimmune diseases. You will have to wait to play sports, especially swimming, for several weeks after the operation. If your refractive error changes again, you may not have enough corneal tissue to safely get LASIK a second time.

Visian ICL

These lenses are not as popular as LASIK, and they are only good for people who are nearsighted. However, myopia is the most common refractive error. If you have complications that make you a bad candidate for LASIK, Visian ICL may be a better option.

  • Pros: If you have thin corneas, a problem with your corneas like keratoconus, or chronic dry eye, Visian ICLs are a much better option than LASIK. If something happens to the lenses or to your eyes, the lenses can be removed, although it is not recommended. In contrast, LASIK cannot be reversed.

    The surgical procedure for Visian ICL takes about 20 minutes per eye, which is a little longer than LASIK, but it’s still a fast outpatient procedure. There are fewer side effects, especially dry eye, associated with ICLs.
  • Cons: Visian ICL is considerably more expensive than LASIK — about $7,000 to $9,000 per eye compared to the fast, cheap laser procedure. This is because fewer eye surgeons specialize in ICL.

    You can still be undercorrected or overcorrected during a Visian ICL procedure, as with LASIK, and you may need additional procedures to reposition the lenses if they slide. You are at a slightly higher risk of developing glaucoma or cataracts.

The Choice Between Visian ICL & LASIK Is Personal

If you are a good candidate for LASIK, your eye doctor will likely recommend this procedure over Visian ICL, simply because it is more accessible, more doctors are trained to perform it, and it is less expensive.

If you are a good candidate for Visian ICL, or you prefer this treatment to LASIK, discuss the option with your optometrist or ophthalmologist. They can advise you on which procedure will be optimal for your particular situation and give you the best long-term results.


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  2. LASIK. (March 2018). U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  3. Why People Choose Visian ICL. Visian ICL.
  4. Phakic IOLs (Implantable Lenses). (October 2016). All About Vision.
  5. Visian® Toric ICL (Implantable Collamer® Lens) – P030016/S001. (October 2018). U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  6. LASIK Results: What to Expect. (August 2017). All About Vision.
  7. LASIK Eye Surgery Cost. (October 2019). All About Vision.
  8. What Are the Risks? (January 2018). U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  9. LASIK Eye Surgery. (November 2019). Mayo Clinic.

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