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Implantable Contact Lenses: Instant improved eyesight in an hour?

September 10, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Imagine walking into your doctor's office with poor eyesight and leaving less than an hour later with clear vision.

Lucy Tiong is a patient of ophthalmologist Dr. Paul Dougherty. She opted to receive an implantable contact lens while Eyewitness News recorded the whole event. It's an innovative technique that many doctors and patients say works wonders.

Lucy's nearsightedness was so severe she could barely see across the room without her eyeglasses on. She's an avid diver, but, she jokes, if a shark swam up to her face, she wouldn't know it.

Lucy takes her vision problems in stride. Lucy started wearing glasses at 4 years old. Every year her eyesight has been getting progressively worse. She wears very thick polymer lenses. If they were glass they'd be three times thicker.

WATCH VIDEO: Lucy tests her vision before the surgery

Lucy's corneas are elongated: light can't hit the back of her eye properly. That makes her severely nearsighted and because of that, she's not a good candidate for LASIK.

So after years of research, she's decided to get the implantable contact lens surgery, or ICL. Instead of removing tissue and reshaping the cornea, like in LASIK, ICL involves implanting a contact lens between the eye's natural lens and the iris, the colored part of the eye. It's permanent, but unlike LASIK, it's reversible.

WATCH VIDEO: Pros and cons of ICL versus LASIK surgery

Dr. Dougherty, a pioneer in the field, performed this revolutionary eye surgery that most people have never heard of. The procedure takes about five minutes per eye. Lucy is awake during the entire procedure.

When Lucy came into the office prior to the surgery, she couldn't make out the clock on the opposite wall. After the surgery, with a little help getting up, Lucy opened her eyes and could clearly read the time. She was amazed by the improvement in her eyesight, and it was directly after the surgery was complete.

WATCH VIDEO: Lucy discovers the results of her ICL surgery

Pros of ICL
- No tissue removed
- Higher definition vision
- Reversible

Pros of LASIK
- Less expensive
- Better for low nearsightedness
- More surgeries performed

Anyone who wears eyeglasses or contact lenses and has moderate or high levels of nearsightedness is a reasonably good candidate for ICL.

ICL is surgery, so just like with LASIK, there's a small risk of infection. It's a little more expensive that LASIK, but it's better than LASIK for patients with moderate and high levels of nearsightedness. Glare and halo side effects are also possibilities, but less than LASIK.


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