After ICL Surgery: Do’s and Don’ts During Recovery Time

Implantable Collamer Lens (ICL) Surgery, sometimes called Implantable Contact Lens surgery, is a vision correction procedure in which an artificial lens also known as a phakic IOL is implanted behind a patient’s iris and in front of the natural lens. Eye surgeons can use ICL surgery to treat refractive errors such as nearsightedness or astigmatism. 

ICL Surgery has many benefits for patients seeking vision correction and it can be a good alternative for patients who are not candidates for LASIK, Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK), or other vision correction surgery alternatives.

Although post-operation recovery is relatively quick and painless, it’s important to follow these do’s and don’ts to ensure an even speedier recovery process. 

Do: Learn How to Properly Use Eye Drops

It’s normal to experience misty vision, inflammation, and other mild symptoms for the first few days after surgery. To address these issues and promote a healthy recovery, surgeons will prescribe eye drops as part of your post-surgery regimen.

It’s important to follow your full eye drop regimen and carefully to ensure all medicated drops or ointments enter your eyes properly.

To use eye drops, tilt your head back and look upward. With one hand, pull your eyelid down and away from your eye. With the other hand, hold your eye drops bottle upside down. Squeeze the bottle to drip the prescribed number of drops into the “pocket” you’ve created between your eye and eyelid.

After applying drops to one eye, close that eye and press your finger against your tear duct. This prevents eye drops from entering your nose. Repeat the process with the other eye, if necessary.

Don’t: Physically Strain Yourself

It can be tempting in the days after ICL surgery to maintain your daily routine. However, your body needs rest to properly recover from an eye operation. You risk injuring yourself, compromising the procedure, or experiencing additional symptoms if you physically strain yourself after ICL surgery.

Pay close attention to the activities your surgeon recommends after surgery. Some surgeons clear patients for simple tasks — like walking or reading — post-surgery. Surgeons often ask patients to refrain from heavy lifting or strenuous activities for a week or two following ICL surgery. You’ll need to show progress in small tasks before your surgeon will allow more complicated activities like driving or full-time work.

Do: Protect Your Eyes From Light

Many patients experience heightened light sensitivity in the days after ICL surgery. Until your eyes recover from the operation, it’s important to protect your eyes from the sun and other bright light sources that could compromise your progress.

Patients should take steps to limit their exposure to bright lights. This might mean turning down the lights in your home, or closing blinds to limit your exposure to bright lights or reflections.

Consider using an umbrella, or sunglasses if you need to go outside in the days after your ICL surgery. Find sunglasses with protective lenses that reduce your exposure to direct sunlight. This should help minimize any discomfort, and provide your eyes with a light-controlled environment to help them heal.

Don’t: Rub Your Eyes

Patients often want to rub their eyes after ICL surgery as a response to the irritation and soreness they feel. However, it is important to NOT rub your eyes after ICL surgery because rubbing your eyes post-surgery can worsen pain or scratch corneas — the protective, outer layer of the eye.

In addition, hands can carry 3,200 germs — from more than 150 different species — at a given time. Rubbing your eyes with your hands can create new opportunities for infection, even if you regularly wash them.

If your eyes feel irritated after ICL surgery — and you want to rub them — consider using a tissue instead. This helps minimize contact between your fingers and your eyes, reducing the possibility of infection. Since dry eyes can also cause irritation, keep your eyes moisturized with doctor-approved artificial tears, wetting drops or a humidifier.

Do: Be Cautious of How You Sleep

The way that you sleep after surgery can affect both your comfort and your overall health. Correct sleeping positions leave you rested while allowing your eyes to heal. By contrast, incorrect sleeping positions after surgery can lead to irritation, pain, or insomnia.

After ICL surgery, your eye doctor may provide you with protective eye shields to wear while you sleep. This will prevent you from putting pressure on your eyes or accidentally rubbing them while you sleep. 

Many surgeons also discourage sleeping on your side during the days after ICL surgery. Sleeping on your side can place undue pressure on the eye, or eyes, which were operated on. If only one eye received implantable contact lenses, you may be cleared to sleep on the opposite side. You may find it most comfortable to sleep on your back during recovery. 

Don’t: Go Swimming

Many surgeons advise ICL patients to avoid hot tubs or pools for at least a few weeks after surgery. Swimming can loosen or dissolve incisions made during operations, and can also create physical strain. You will be advised to avoid open bodies of water for at least one month, as these can introduce bacteria to the eyes.

Swimming in the days after surgery can also stretch scars, cause infections, and increase blood pressure — all factors that can delay full recovery.

Even after patients are approved for low-intensity activities, many surgeons recommend goggles for ICL patients. Goggles when swimming help patients avoid impact-related injuries, and prevent water from creating water-related illnesses or infections after contact with exposed eyes.

Do: Rest Well

Rest is incredibly important after ICL surgery. Rest helps your eyes recover after the operation, and gives your body the chance to heal. Follow your surgeon’s instructions after ICL surgery to ensure you’re keeping activities and stress to an appropriate minimum.

Sustained rest gives your body the chance to restore functionality, and recover from any anesthetic used during the operation. Limit movements to an appropriate minimum, but don’t stop moving altogether. A quick walk after surgery, when approved by your surgeon, can help improve blood flow and prevent clots.

Don’t: Bend Down

Where you can, it’s important to limit bending down after surgery. Bending can place undue pressure on your eyes, and create complications that delay healing. A bending motion can also interfere with any incisions made during the ICL surgery process.

If you need to reach something below you, squat or use a reaching tool instead of bending down. For activities that might still require bending — like putting on pants — consider performing the task in a sitting position.

Do: Consistently Go to Your Scheduled Appointments

To give yourself the best chance for complete recovery after ICL surgery, it’s important to keep your scheduled appointments. Surgeons often use post-surgery appointments to gauge patient progress, or make recommendations to further improve healing.

If any issues arise after ICL surgery, attending your scheduled appointments allows surgeons to minimize problems. If you neglect scheduled appointments, complications can worsen before your surgeon has the chance to correct them.

Don’t: Wear Eye Makeup

On the day of your procedure, your surgeon will have you come in with a thoroughly cleaned face, particularly around the eyelids and eyelashes to be sure any residual makeup or debris that could interfere with your ICL procedure are removed. 

Your eye doctor will likely ask you to refrain from wearing any eye makeup for the first several days following surgery. This helps minimize the number of chemicals that come into contact with the eyes, particularly in the days following an operation.

If they make contact with the eyes, makeup products like eye shadow and mascara can cause infections, irritation, and other complications. These issues can make post-surgery recovery even more challenging, and might interfere with prescribed eye drops.  It’s also important to avoid putting pressure on the eyes from scrubbing off makeup, and you’ll be instructed to minimize water or other normal facial cleansers on the face and eye area during the first few days after ICL surgery.