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Cataract Surgery

How Much Does Cataract Surgery Cost?

Cataract surgery in a private clinic can cost anywhere from £1,800-£3,000 including the doctor's and hospital fees. Obviously, this will vary from region to region across the UK, for instance the average cost of cataract removal in a London based cataract clinic may well be more than one in the north of the UK. This is due to a number of reasons including the quality of surgeons affiliated with the clinic, how competitive the clinic is or the reputation that it's built up over the years.

Other factors such as the aftercare package and support provided afterwards might vary from clinic to clinic and might need to be taken in to account when comparing the cost of cataract surgery between clinics.

In all cases, it's recommended that patients compare a selection of clinics and not make a decision until you are happy with the reputation of the surgeon and clinic as well as the details of your treatment package before you commit to a procedure.

At A Glance

Private Cataract Surgery £1,800 - £3,000 per eye
Surgery Time 30 - 45 mins
Discharge Time After a few hours
Anaesthetic Local

Frequently Asked Questions

Cataract Patient

What Are Cataracts?

A cataract is a disease of the eye where the naturally clear lens, located behind the pupil and iris, becomes cloudy. Over time the sufferer will experience reduced clarity of vision. Over a long period of time the lens, otherwise called the crystalline lens will begin to cloud and turn opaque. Mostly cataracts affect both eyes at the same time, but it is not uncommon for the disease to develop more rapidly in one eye than the other. Cataracts are extremely common and affect millions of people in the UK every year. Over 60% of those over 60 are likely to experience them at some point.

As the condition develops, the cataract will continue to restrict the amount of light that can enter the eye. This can cause blurred vision and if it is not treated can even lead to near blindness. If this happens only the smallest amount of light will be let through to the retina at the back of the eye.

Before the invention or application of cataract surgery most people with cataracts ended up blind. But now, thanks to years of medical research and surgical developments, this is no longer the case thanks to a relatively simple surgical procedure.

The viewpoint of a cataract sufferer.

A cataract is a cloudy patch on the eye that can make everything look misty, sometimes with a yellow or brown tinge

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What Types Of Cataracts Are There?

  • Age Related Cataracts - The most common type of cataract is age related. Indeed, around one third of adults in the UK are affected by cataracts to some degree. Cataracts of this kind often develop over several years and the symptoms may not be noticeable at first. The lens of the eye becomes cloudy, increasingly affecting vision. Symptoms may include blurring of vision, visual disturbances, difficulty seeing in low light and dulling of colours and details.

    If untreated, cataracts can, in the worst cases, lead to blindness. However, prompt treatment of age related cataracts is usually straightforward and successful.

    Age related cataracts affect both sexes equally. There is an increased risk with some factors such as poor diet, over-exposure to sunlight, a family history of cataracts and smoking.

  • Congenital Cataracts - More rarely, cataracts can be present from birth or develop in childhood. As with other kinds of cataracts, they can affect one or both eyes and the symptoms can vary widely in severity and speed of onset. The causes of congenital cataracts are often not possible to ascertain but may relate to a genetic or chromosomal condition or an infection in the womb.
  • Secondary Cataracts - Secondary cataracts can occur in association with conditions such as diabetes. They can also develop following alcohol and drug abuse, exposure to certain toxic chemicals, long term use of drugs like steroids or exposure to radiation.
  • Traumatic Cataracts - As the name suggests, these can occur when the eye is injured. In rare cases, electric shock may cause this type of cataract.
  • The last three types of cataracts may be more complex to treat than age related cataracts.

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    The Other Intraocular Lens (IOL) Treatments Available

    • Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE): RLE involves removing the crystalline lens of the eye and then replacing it with an artificial lens implant. This procedure is very similar to cataract surgery but instead of simply removing the cataract, it changes the refractive properties of the eye.
    • Implantable Contact Lenses (ICL): ICLs are similar to contact lenses with the main difference being that they are placed into the eye rather than sitting on top. These lenses work by changing the way that light is focused on the retina. This procedure, however, is not a way to treat cataracts. As the natural lens is not removed, it will not prevent a cataract forming, and if it does the ICL will need to be removed.

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    The Benefits And Risks Of Cataracts Surgery

    Intraocular lens treatments have a high success rate, although the procedures do still come with associated risks such as; infections, loosening of the lens, lens rotation and inflammation. The treatment acts as an alternative for laser eye surgery, and in procedures where the natural lens of the eye is removed, eliminate any chance of a cataract forming or returning.

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    The Procedure

    There are three types of cataract surgery available and the technique used in each case will depend on the severity of the trauma and how developed the cataracts have become:

    • Phacoemulsification - The cataract (cloudy lens) is broken into little pieces using ultrasound and extracted via a thin tube. After the cloudy lens has been removed, a replacement lens is folded and inserted through the same incision from which the natural lens was extracted. This process requires minimal sedation and can usually be performed within 30 minutes. Patients might not even need to wear an eye patch post procedure.
    • Extracapsular Cataract Surgery - This form of cataract surgery is usually performed when cataracts have become too advanced to be broken down using Phacoemulsification. This technique is performed under a local anaesthetic and a patient may also take an oral sedative to relax. Eye drops are used to dilate the patients' pupils, allowing the surgeon to see the whole of the lens clearly.

      The surgeon will carefully make a small incision in the surface of the eye and remove the cloudy, opaque lens. After which the artificial lens is then inserted. The recovery time is a lot longer than Phacoemulsification and the patient will be required to wear an eye patch for a number of weeks post surgery.

    • Intracapsular Cataract Surgery - This technique involves a larger incision than the extracapsular surgery and is used only for cases of extreme trauma. Using this larger incision the surgeon removes the entire lens and capsule and then the artificial, intraocular lens would then be placed in front of the iris.

    How Are Cataracts Treated?

    Moorfields surgeon Alexander Ionides explains how cataracts can be treated with laser eye surgery

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    Potential Complications

    Surgery to remove a cataract is generally considered to be a low risk procedure. Research carried out by the RNIB suggests that fewer than 2% of patients who have cataracts removed experience a serious complication. However all surgery, no matter how common, carries the risk of complications.

    • PCO (Posterior Capsule Opacification) - In PCO, the capsule that encases the lens thickens due to additional cell growth, causing the patient's vision to become cloudy. This condition can develop at any time up to about five years after the initial operation and requires minor laser surgery to correct it.
    • Cystoid Macular Oedema - Fluid builds up between the layers of the retina causing a loss of vision. While this can be alarming for patients, it is relatively easy to treat. Common anti-inflammatory drugs such as diclofenac or ibuprofen are normally prescribed.
    • Other potential complications could include the following: A detached retina, bleeding in the eye, infection in the eye, posterior vitreous detachment, inflammation, damage to the cornea, part of the cataract dropping into the rear of the eye and tearing of the lens capsule. Finally, the surgery may alter the shape of your lens which may mean some patients will need to use glasses for distance or close-up vision.
    • Anyone who experiences increasing pain or loss of vision after surgery is advised to seek medical aid as soon as possible.

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    After the effects of the local anaesthetic have worn off the patient will be allowed to go home to recover.

    Patients should be provided with eye drops to prevent infection and to aid the healing of the eye. They should also be given a 24-hour helpline number in case of any initial problems and a follow-up appointment which they should attend between one to three weeks after the procedure.

    Contact with the patient's local care provider or hospital should be made if the eye starts to go red, loss of vision occurs or more than a mild pain occurs.

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    Driving After Cataract Surgery

    If you have had a cataract removed, then you must prove that you meet the DVLA minimum sight standards for drivers. You must be able to demonstrate that you can read a car number plate from a distance of 20 metres. You will also need medical confirmation that your eyesight is not worse that 0.5 on the Snellen scale. If you do not meet these standards then driving on a public road in the UK is an offense.

    The amount of time it will take to regain driving standard vision will vary from patient to patient. For some, it may only be a matter of days but this cannot be guaranteed prior to surgery. It's still important to get confirmation from your surgeon that you have reached the required standard.

    If you have had surgery in one eye and your other eye has no medical issues, you may be able to drive as soon as the sedation has worn off. However, only having sight in one eye can take adjusting to and it's generally considered wise to wait a few days.

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    Potential Side Effects

    Normal side effects after a cataract procedure include:

    • Itching and crusting of the eye.
    • A gritty feeling in the eye.
    • Bruising of the eyelid.
    • A slight ache around the eye.

    These side effects should pass within a few days to a week.

    Floaters can also occur but should settle down after a couple of weeks. If problems with floater occur after this time, the patient should contact the clinic as PVD (posterior vitreous detachment) may have occurred.

    If the patient experiences flashes of light, blurred vision, a dark curtain across vision or an increase in floaters, then contact should be made with an ophthalmologist.

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