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Intraocular Lenses (IOL) vs LASIK

Written by Andrew Le, MD

UpdatedMay 29, 2024

Eye surgeries like intraocular lens (IOL) implantation and laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) utilize advanced technology to correct vision and enhance quality of life. These procedures range from replacing clouded lenses during cataract treatment to reshaping the cornea to address nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.

The IOL market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5.39% from 2024 to 2030, reaching a global market value of $6.11 billion by 2030. Monofocal lenses, due to their cost-effectiveness, led the market in 2022, while multifocal IOLs are expected to see increased growth​​​​.

In contrast, the LASIK eye surgery market is set to experience significant growth between 2023 and 2030, with a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.7%. This elective surgical procedure has a remarkable complication rate of less than 1% and a high patient satisfaction rate of 96%, making it one of the most successful elective procedures​​​​.

This article explores the intricacies of IOL implantation and LASIK, offering insights into the surgical processes, ideal candidates, benefits and risks, and associated costs of these life-enhancing eye surgeries.

🔑 Key Takeaways

  • Intraocular lens (IOL) implantation involves removing the natural lens during cataract surgery and inserting an artificial IOL. The most common technique is phacoemulsification with ultrasonic aspiration. IOLs can be monofocal, multifocal, extended depth-of-focus, accommodative, toric, light-adjustable, or phakic.
  • LASIK reshapes the cornea by using a laser to correct refractive errors like nearsightedness and astigmatism. Key steps include creating a corneal flap, reshaping the cornea with an excimer laser, and repositioning the flap. The procedure takes under 30 minutes.
  • Ideal IOL candidates include cataract patients and those opting for refractive lens exchange. LASIK candidates should be at least 18, with a stable prescription, adequate corneal thickness, and healthy eyes.
  • IOL risks include infection, inflammation, retinal detachment, and vision problems. LASIK risks are rare but include under/overcorrection, flap complications, dry eyes, glare, halos, and vision changes.
  • IOL surgery costs approximately $1,600-$3,200 per eye. LASIK averages around $2,200 per eye, influenced by factors like surgeon experience and technology used.
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1. Procedure

Understanding the intricacies of eye surgeries is vital for anyone considering vision correction. From replacing clouded lenses in cataract surgery to reshaping the cornea in LASIK, these procedures use advanced technology to enhance vision and improve quality of life.

Here are the specifics of IOL implantation and LASIK surgery, exploring their procedures.


An IOL is an artificial lens implanted in the eye to replace the natural lens. This replacement typically occurs during cataract surgery or refractive lens exchange. IOLs are designed to restore clear vision by focusing light onto the retina.

They are made from various materials, such as silicone, acrylic, or polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), and come in different types to address specific vision needs, including monofocal, multifocal, and toric lenses​.

The procedure generally involves the following steps:

  1. Preparation: Before the surgery, an ophthalmologist conducts a thorough eye exam to check vision and eye health and measures the eye's size and shape to determine the best IOL type.
  2. Surgical Process: The cloudy lens is removed from the eye. This can be done using various techniques, the most common being phacoemulsification, where the lens is emulsified with an ultrasonic handpiece and then aspirated from the eye.
  3. Implantation of the IOL: The chosen IOL is implanted after removing the natural lens. The lens is usually folded and inserted through a small incision. Then, it unfolds inside the eye.
  4. Completion: The incision is usually self-sealing and does not require stitches. The whole procedure is relatively quick and is typically done on an outpatient basis.

The success rate of cataract surgery with IOL implantation is high, with over one million surgeries performed annually in the US and a 95% success rate​​.


LASIK is a refractive surgical procedure used to correct vision in individuals with myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism. It is a method of reshaping the cornea, the transparent front part of the eye, to improve visual acuity and reduce or eliminate the need for glasses or contact lenses.

The surgery involves the following steps:

  1. Preparation: Before the surgery, patients undergo a detailed eye examination. This includes measuring the cornea's thickness, shape, and contour and identifying irregularities. Wavefront-guided technology may be used to create a detailed map of the eye.
  2. Creating the Corneal Flap: A thin flap is created on the cornea using a microkeratome or a femtosecond laser during the procedure. This flap is then folded back to access the underlying corneal tissue.
  3. Reshaping the Cornea: An excimer laser is used to reshape the corneal stroma, removing precise amounts of tissue to correct the refractive error.
  4. Repositioning the Flap: After reshaping the cornea, the flap is carefully repositioned over the treatment area. It adheres naturally without the need for sutures.
  5. Postoperative Care: Patients are given instructions on how to care for their eyes after surgery, including antibiotics and anti-inflammatory eye drops. A protective shield may be provided to prevent rubbing or touching the eyes during healing.

The procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes, and most patients experience a significant improvement in vision. About 96% of people who undergo LASIK are satisfied with the results, with many achieving 20/40 vision or better and more than 90% ending up with 20/20 vision​.

2. Ideal Candidates

Choosing the right candidates for specific eye surgeries is crucial to ensure optimal outcomes. While IOLs are primarily used in cataract surgery, LASIK is preferred for correcting refractive errors.

Understanding who benefits most from these procedures can lead to better vision and satisfaction. Considering age, eye health, and specific vision needs, let's explore the ideal candidates for IOL implantation and LASIK surgery.


Ideal candidates for IOL implantation primarily include patients undergoing cataract surgery and those opting for refractive lens exchange. The typical candidates are those experiencing vision loss or blurriness due to cataracts, characterized by cloudy patches on the lens.

IOLs are also considered for individuals who have suffered eye trauma or have certain eye conditions that can be addressed through the implantation of these lenses​​.

Factors influencing candidacy for IOLs include:

  • Pre-existing Ocular Conditions: Patients with certain ocular conditions, such as Fuchs’ dystrophy, advanced dry eye, macular degeneration, and anterior basement membrane dystrophy, may not be ideal candidates for premium IOLs. These conditions can complicate surgery and affect postoperative visual outcomes​​.
  • Post-refractive Surgery: Patients who have undergone previous refractive surgeries might not achieve optimal results with IOLs due to residual refractive errors and potential vision complications​​.
  • Psychological Factors: Patients' personalities and expectations play a role in determining suitability for premium IOLs. Those with specific personality traits or very high expectations may not adjust well to the visual outcomes of certain IOL types.​


Ideal candidates for LASIK surgery seek to correct refractive errors such as myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism. Critical criteria for LASIK candidacy include​​​​​​:

  • Age: Candidates should be at least 18 years old, ideally over 21 years, when vision is more likely to have stabilized.
  • Stable Prescription: A stable eye prescription for at least one year before surgery.
  • Corneal Thickness: Adequate corneal thickness is necessary for the LASIK procedure.
  • General Eye Health: Candidates should have healthy eyes without severe dry eye, keratoconus, uncontrolled glaucoma, or cataracts.
  • Overall Health: Good general health, with no autoimmune disorders or conditions that impair healing.
  • Realistic Expectations: Understanding of what LASIK can and cannot achieve.

People with certain conditions are typically not recommended for LASIK, including those with unstable refractive errors, severe levels of myopia or hyperopia, significantly dry eyes, thin corneas, and certain eye diseases. Pregnant or breastfeeding women are also advised against undergoing LASIK due to potential vision changes during these periods​​​​.

3. Benefits and Advantages

From IOLs offering various solutions for different vision requirements to LASIK providing quick and lasting vision correction, these procedures offer numerous benefits.

Let's look at the specific advantages of IOLs and LASIK, including improved vision quality, reduced dependence on glasses, and long-term vision correction.


IOLs offer customized solutions for different eye conditions. From providing clear distance vision to accommodating complex visual requirements, the variety of IOL types available ensures that there is an option for almost every patient.

Here's a closer look at the different types of IOLs and their specific benefits:

Variety of Types for Specific Needs

  • Monofocal Lenses: Ideal for individuals who require vision correction for a single distance, typically set for distance vision. These lenses are a straightforward solution for those who don't mind wearing glasses for near tasks.
  • Multifocal Lenses: Beneficial for people needing vision correction at multiple distances, including near, intermediate, and far. They reduce the need for additional reading glasses or bifocals.
  • Extended Depth-of-Focus (EDOF) Lenses: These lenses provide a continuous range of quality vision for distance and intermediate, particularly helpful for activities like driving and computer use.
  • Accommodative Lenses: Designed to move or change shape inside the eye, mimicking the natural lens and providing a more natural range of vision.
  • Toric Lenses: Tailored for individuals with astigmatism, these lenses correct irregular corneal curvature, offering sharper vision.
  • Light-Adjustable Lenses (LALs): Unique in allowing post-surgery lens power adjustment, these cater to patients desiring the most precise vision correction.
  • Phakic Lenses: A solution for younger patients with severe refractive errors, preserving the eye's natural lens and focusing ability.

Improved Vision Quality

  • IOLs are a transformative solution for cataract patients, replacing the clouded natural lens and restoring clear vision.
  • They offer a clearer and often more vibrant visual experience, significantly enhancing quality of life.

Customization Options

  • Light-adjustable lenses offer a remarkable level of customization, allowing fine-tuning of vision after surgery to match the patient's specific needs.
  • This adaptability ensures the highest possible satisfaction with the visual outcome.

Reduced Dependence on Glasses

  • Multifocal and accommodative lenses significantly reduce the reliance on glasses for everyday tasks, providing a more seamless visual experience.
  • This benefit is particularly appreciated by those dependent on corrective eyewear for most of their lives.

Long-Term Solution

  • Once implanted, IOLs provide a permanent correction of vision issues.
  • They eliminate the hassle and ongoing expense of updating glasses or contact lenses.

Correction of Astigmatism

  • Toric IOLs effectively correct astigmatism, a standard refractive error caused by an irregular corneal shape.
  • Patients with toric IOLs often experience a dramatic improvement in vision clarity, particularly in perceiving straight lines and edges.


LASIK offers many benefits, making it a popular choice for those seeking to improve their eyesight. This procedure stands out for its efficiency and effectiveness and its lasting impact on patients' quality of life.

Here's a detailed look at the benefits of LASIK surgery:

Quick and Effective

  • LASIK surgery is remarkably efficient, often completed in under 30 minutes.
  • The procedure can lead to immediate and significant improvements in vision.
  • Many patients achieve 20/20 vision or better, enhancing their daily visual experience.

High Success Rate

  • LASIK is known for its high levels of patient satisfaction.
  • Over 90% of patients attain 20/20 vision post-surgery.
  • Satisfaction rates range from 96% to 99%, reflecting the effectiveness and positive impact of the procedure.

Reduced Need for Eyewear

  • A significant benefit of LASIK is reducing or eliminating dependence on glasses or contact lenses.
  • This change can lead to greater convenience in daily life and expand opportunities in sports and other activities.

Rapid Recovery

  • Recovery from LASIK is typically fast, with most patients resuming normal activities within a few days.
  • The quick recovery period minimizes disruption to daily life and work, making it a convenient option for many.

Safe and Reliable

  • LASIK is one of the safest elective surgical procedures available.
  • It boasts a low complication rate, ensuring a high level of safety for patients.
  • Continuous advancements in technology and techniques contribute to its safety profile.

Long-Term Vision Correction

  • LASIK offers a long-lasting solution for correcting common refractive errors such as myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism.
  • The procedure reshapes the cornea, addressing the root cause of these vision problems.
  • Many patients enjoy years of stable, improved vision following LASIK surgery.

4. Risks and potential complications

While eye surgeries like IOL implantation and LASIK offer significant benefits, being aware of potential risks and complications is essential. Understanding these risks helps patients make informed decisions and prepare for any eventualities.

This section delves into the possible issues associated with IOL and LASIK surgeries, from vision problems to flap complications.


While IOL offers significant benefits, there are potential risks and complications associated with IOL implantation. Here’s a breakdown:

Types of IOLs and Potential Issues

  • Multifocal Lenses: These improve close-up and distance vision but may cause rings or halos around lights, notably when driving at night​​.
  • Extended Depth-of-Focus Lenses: They provide excellent distance vision and improvements in mid-range vision, but glasses may still be needed for close-up tasks​​.
  • Accommodative Lenses: Similar to natural lenses, they adjust their shape to help see at different distances. Glasses may be preferred for prolonged close-up work​​.
  • Toric Lenses: Ideal for those with astigmatism, these lenses improve light focus on the retina, reducing glare and halo artifacts​​.
  • Light-Adjustable Lenses: Customizable post-surgery using UV light treatment, but are still monofocal lenses requiring glasses for certain activities​​.
  • Phakic Lenses: Implanted in younger individuals to correct near-sightedness while preserving the natural lens. They eventually need to be removed during cataract surgery​​.

General Risks and Complications

  • Infection: Though rare, it's a serious concern and could lead to endophthalmitis, severe inflammation of the internal eye tissues​​.
  • Bleeding and Inflammation: Common post-surgery responses usually subside within a few days or weeks​​.
  • Retinal Detachment or Lens Dislocation: Rare but significant risks​​.
  • Vision Problems: Some patients might notice glare, halos, or blurred vision post-surgery, which usually improve over time. In some cases, a secondary procedure may be necessary​​.
  • Posterior Capsular Opacification (PCO): A common and expected occurrence over time, treatable with a quick and straightforward laser procedure in the office​​.
  • Uveitis-Glaucoma-Hyphema (UGH) Syndrome: Occurs when an IOL irritates parts of the eye, leading to inflammation and raised intraocular pressure.

Specific Complications for Phakic IOLs

  • Progressive Endothelial Cell Loss: Potentially leads to significant corneal edema​​.
  • Pupil Ovalization: More common with older lens models, it can lead to the breakdown of the blood-aqueous barrier and low-grade uveitis-glaucoma-hyphema (UGH) syndrome​​.
  • Acute Glaucoma, Pupillary Block, and Cataracts: Potential risks associated with phakic IOLs​​.
  • Chronic Inflammation and Iridocyclitis: Can occur, especially if the lens is too flat​​.

Patients must discuss the benefits and risks of IOLs with their ophthalmologist to make an informed decision tailored to their specific needs and circumstances. Regular postoperative check-ups are essential to monitor and address any complications promptly.


LASIK surgery has its share of risks and potential complications. While these are generally rare, it's essential to be aware of these possible issues:

  • Undercorrections and Overcorrections: Undercorrections, where too little tissue is removed, are more common in nearsighted people. Overcorrections involve the removal of too much tissue and may be more challenging to fix. These issues may necessitate additional LASIK procedures.
  • Astigmatism: Caused by uneven tissue removal, astigmatism can occur post-LASIK and may require further surgery, glasses, or contact lenses to correct.
  • Flap Problems: Complications related to the flap created during LASIK can include infection, excess tears, and abnormal corneal tissue growth underneath the flap.
  • Corneal Ectasia: This serious condition involves the thinning and weakening of the cornea, leading to bulging and vision deterioration. It is a rare but significant complication.
  • Regression: Over time, some patients experience a gradual return to their original prescription, although this is less common.
  • Vision Loss or Changes: In rare cases, LASIK can result in loss of vision or decreased visual sharpness.
  • Dry Eyes: Affecting about 30% of LASIK patients, dry eyes are a common side effect, often resolving within six to twelve months post-surgery.
  • Glare, Halos, and Reduced Night Vision: These visual disturbances, particularly noticeable when driving at night, can improve over time but are a concern for some patients.
  • Epithelial Ingrowth: Occurs when tissue from the outer layer of the cornea grows underneath the LASIK flap. Severe cases may require surgical intervention.
  • Irregular Astigmatism: This complication causes visual distortion and may necessitate a second procedure for correction.
  • Decentration: When the laser is not correctly centered on the eye during surgery, it can cause irregular astigmatism, potentially requiring retreatment.

These risks and complications are rare, but patients must discuss them with their healthcare providers when considering LASIK surgery.

5. Cost

The cost of eye surgeries like IOL implantation and LASIK can be significant for many patients. Understanding the various factors that influence these costs, from the type of procedure to the surgeon's experience, can help in planning and decision-making.

This section provides an overview of the costs associated with IOL and LASIK surgeries, exploring what patients can expect to pay and the factors contributing to these expenses.


Intraocular lenses (IOLs) are used primarily in cataract surgery and can vary in cost depending on the lens type implanted and other factors. IOL surgery costs approximately €1,500 - €3,000 ($1,600 - $3,200) per eye. This cost can vary based on the type of IOL used. Multifocal lenses provide vision at multiple distances and can significantly raise costs due to more expensive materials. However, these lenses may reduce or eliminate the need for glasses after treatment.

Public health insurance typically covers the costs if the IOL is used to treat a cataract. If the patient opts for a more expensive multifocal lens, they may need to pay additional charges. Other factors influencing the cost include the surgeon's experience, the facility used, and geographic location.


As of 2024, the average cost of LASIK eye surgery in the US is approximately $2,200 per eye or about $4,400 for both eyes. This cost can vary depending on several factors, including the surgeon's experience, geographic location, type of technology and equipment used, and the degree of correction needed. The cost may include pre and post-operative care, initial consultations, and follow-up procedures.

LASIK is typically considered an elective procedure and is not covered by most health insurance plans. Patients should inquire about potential additional fees and consider the long-term savings on glasses, contact lenses, and associated expenses. Advanced technology, such as custom wavefront LASIK and bladeless LASIK, can lead to higher costs due to their precision and enhanced results.

Wrap Up

Both procedures offer customized approaches to meet each patient's specific needs. However, proper candidate selection is vital, as those with certain pre-existing conditions may face higher surgical risks or suboptimal outcomes.

Patients must also weigh factors like potential side effects and costs when deciding if IOL or LASIK surgery is the right choice for their circumstances.

Yet, for many ideal candidates, these procedures deliver transformative and long-term visual clarity and convenience improvements. With advancing technology and techniques, they provide safe, reliable solutions for cataract treatment and refractive errors when performed by experienced specialists. IOL and LASIK surgeries can enhance daily life for suitable patients by correcting vision in ways that glasses and contacts cannot.

FAQs on Intraocular Lenses (IOL) vs LASIK

Which IOL is best for me?

The best IOL for an individual depends on their specific vision needs, lifestyle, and eye health. An ophthalmologist will conduct a thorough exam and discuss options to determine the most suitable IOL type​​​​.

Will I be awake during LASIK? How long does it take?

You will be awake during LASIK but won't feel pain due to mild sedation and numbing eye drops. The procedure typically takes 30 minutes or less​.

What should I expect after LASIK surgery?

After LASIK, you'll have a brief eye exam to ensure the corneal flaps are correctly positioned. Your vision may fluctuate initially and experience temporary side effects like light sensitivity or discomfort. Over-the-counter pain relievers can be used to manage any discomfort​​​​.