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Cataract surgery is an operation available for free on the NHS. However, many patients frustrated with long NHS waiting lists turn to private care instead. There are many private clinics in the UK that offer cataract surgery.
Cataract surgery in a private UK 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, and 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, or how competitive the clinic is.
While the prices given above for cataract removal are an average, many eye surgery clinics across the country may well offer surgery for much less if they have a special offer on. It is important to read the small print when it comes to these offers though, as though they may seem cheap, they may not include all the necessary care.
In all cases, it is essential to compare a selection of cataract clinics and not make a decision until you are happy and confident in your surgeon's and clinic's professional status and reputation before you undergo any surgical procedure.
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 cost of cataract surgery will depend entirely on the clinic where the operation will take place as well as the reputation of the surgeon carrying out the operation.
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.
The last three types of cataracts may be more complex to treat than age related cataracts.
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:
When the anaesthetic has taken effect the surgeon will carefully make a small incision in the surface of the eye and remove the cloudy, opaque lens. The artificial lens is then inserted. Due to the relatively invasive nature of this procedure in comparison to phacoemulsification, the recovery time is a lot longer and the patient will be required to wear an eye patch for a number of weeks post surgery.
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.
Normal side effects after a cataract procedure include:
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.
Cataract sufferers may long for a solution to their eyesight problems, but be unable to afford surgery in the UK. For those patients, the option of receiving cataract treatment abroad may be an option as it is often a fraction of the cost. Some of the world's best eye surgeons practice in countries that offer cataract surgery at much lower prices than UK clinics.
Prices for cataract surgery abroad start from as little as £440 in Bulgaria and £526 in the Czech Republic. These prices will usually include hospital and doctor's charges. However, it is essential to ensure these additional extras are included in the total cost before committing to surgery abroad. It is also recommended that potential patients do their research on the clinic and surgeon performing the procedure thoroughly before receiving treatment for cataracts in a foreign country. It is also important to take out the relevant travel and health insurance.