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While a cataract 1is a curable eye condition, it continues to be the top cause of blindness in many countries. Additionally, cataract is the most common cause of visual impairment in developed and developing countries.
In the U.K., 330,000 cataract surgeries are carried out every year. The disease affects around 530 adults out of 100,000 in the country.
However, the older population is at a greater risk of developing cataracts. Data estimates suggest that over 3,200 seniors out of 100,000 over 65-year-olds are found to have cataracts.
Additionally, specific populations may be more vulnerable to cataracts. For example, 77% of British adults over 42-years with origins from the Indian subcontinent develop cataracts.
Cataracts cause the lens of the eyes to turn cloudy. As a result, you develop blurry vision and cannot see properly. In severe cases, cataracts may result in a loss of vision. However, doctors can remove cataracts through surgery and restore your eyesight.
Most importantly, you don’t need to spend the night in the hospital as you can return home on the same day.
Your Available Options When It Comes to Cataract Surgery
Now, cataract is more common than you may think. And you’re more prone to developing cataracts as you age.
The NHS offers free cataract surgeries to remove cataracts and restore vision. The national health service system recognises the need to treat cataracts as they lower the quality of the patient’s lifestyle.
That being said, you may have to wait for a long time if you want to get treated by the NHS.
Unfortunately, the pandemic made matters worse. Studies show that patients in London and Bedfordshire waited for 9 months to get cataract surgery from the NHS during that time.
The situation was not much better, even before the pandemic. Patients had to wait for an average of over 5 months to receive cataract surgery.
As a general estimation, you may have to pay upwards of £2,000 for a cataract operation.
Studies predicted the number of blind people worldwide to reach 75 million in 2020. However, 75% of these cases could be prevented or treated.
While cataracts may not be completely preventable, you can easily treat them. The disease affects the lens of our eyes and makes it cloudy.
Age is undoubtedly a factor, while lifestyle factors like smoking may increase the risk of developing cataracts.
Now, using prescription glasses cannot treat cataracts. However, if discovered early, you can use glasses to correct blurry vision and other vision problems that you can experience due to cataracts. Do know that you may still need surgery if your cataract worsens and impacts your lifestyle.
The NHS will allow you to undertake surgery only when your cataracts seriously affect your vision. Additionally, you may have to wait for months to get a date for your surgery.
As a result, many people choose to undergo cataract surgery at private hospitals to avail quick treatment.
Cataract surgery is the most common surgical procedure in the developed world. According to the NHS, it is highly effective and has a high success rate in restoring eyesight.
You will need to consult your doctor to get advice on if surgery is the right option. Your doctor will also prescribe eye tests to find out more about your vision.
However, your physician will also consider many other factors to decide if surgery is the right option.
For example, your doctor may recommend surgery if your cataract is affecting your hobbies, like reading.
The first step of cataract surgery is to visit an eye specialist. They will assess your eye health and vision through several techniques and measurements of the eyes and eyesight.
Moreover, you will have an opportunity to talk about anything that concerns you about the surgery.
For example, you may discuss the type of lens replacement you want, like monofocal or multifocal lenses.3
Additionally, you may want to go over the details of the surgery and nuances like expected recovery times.
Choosing the Right Lens for Cataract Surgery
makesSurgeons remove the clouded lens from the eyes during cataract surgery. After that, they implant an artificial lens in its place.
You can choose a specific strength of lens that suits you best. Therefore, you may not be able to use the same glasses you had before the surgery. It also gives you an opportunity to correct your vision with lens replacement.
Your doctor will help you choose the right lens for your eyes. They will examine your vision and determine the best lens strength and type.
Additionally, your doctor may ask you about your work, daily activities, and your preference of lens.
Lenses commonly come with a fixed focusing power. They can provide you with either a clear near vision or distance vision.
Therefore, you will need glasses to focus on the distance your lens doesn’t support. Let’s say you choose a lens that lets you focus on near distances.
So, you will need glasses to focus on long distances, which is not possible for your near-distance lens.
It reduces your ability to focus on your near vision and develops after 40-years of age. You will need glasses to correct your near vision for tasks like reading.
People with myopia have a short vision. They don’t need glasses for tasks like reading. So, they can choose a near-distance lens for their surgery to suit their current vision.
Eyeballs are round in shape. However, some people have eyeballs that are irregularly shaped. They will need glasses to focus on near and far distances, irrespective of the lens they choose.
In addition, you will need glasses after your cataract surgery if you have double vision.
Patients will be able to choose the type of lens they want for their cataract surgery. Your doctor will also help you select the right lens for your eyes. The artificial lens used for replacement is called intraocular lens (IOL).
Removing a cataract can take from 30 to 45 minutes. You can go back home the same day, though the procedure does involve the use of anesthetics.
In some cases, your surgeon may break up the cataract using different techniques, like ultrasound waves.
Surgery is also a suitable choice for people who have cataracts in both eyes. They can treat their cataracts through immediate sequential bilateral cataract surgery (ISBCS).
Doctors will perform surgery in both eyes, one after another. As a result, the procedure may be more affordable than getting two separate surgeries.
In addition, you can lower the number of visits you make to the hospital as the operation on both eyes happens on the same day.
The procedure is ideal for patients with a low risk of complications. They can get treated on the same day and go home with restored eyesight.
However, you may need to use glasses during the recovery or longer, especially for reading or similar activities.
Most people will need to wear glasses even after cataract surgery. Whether you will need glasses will depend on several factors like:
- The overall health of your eye
- Eye conditions like astigmatism
- Your current eye prescription
- Other vision needs
However, lens replacement may not be an option if you have complications. In such cases, you will need glasses for the rest of your life.
The list of complications may include:
- Double vision
- Irregular shape of the cornea
- Existing eye diseases
What are the Different Cataract Surgeries and Procedures You Can Get?
Your eye doctor may perform two types of surgeries to treat your cataract.
Small Incision Cataract Surgery (SICS)7
This procedure involves making a tiny cut on the cornea. It is more common among the two types of cataract surgeries done worldwide.
Extracapsular Cataract Surgery8
The procedure is the same as SICS barring two differences:
- The surgeon makes a larger cut on the cornea
- They take out the affected lens in one piece
Apart from the above, the rest of the procedure is the same. Your surgeon will insert an artificial lens inside the lens capsule, which they left intact, just like SICS.
Laser Cataract Surgery9
Sometimes, laser surgery may also be used here.
Laser cataract surgeries offer the same benefits as a regular cataract surgery procedure. However, this more non-invasive as doctors don’t use blades to make incisions. Instead, they rely on lasers to make incisions in the retina and disintegrate the cataract.
Moreover, they may even use the probe to suck out the broken-down cataract from the eyes.
However, very few public hospitals in the UK offer laser surgery for treating cataracts. They are most available at private providers and institutions.
You may experience an instant improvement in your vision that may continue to get better over the days.
However, your eyesight may still be blurry as your eyes need time to heal and adjust. Additionally, you may find colours brighter as you have a new lens now.
Moreover, any yellow or brown tinge you had would now be absent from your vision. However, you may have a few issues, such as:
- Double vision
- Watering from eyes
- Bloodshot eyes
Most importantly, after the surgery, do avoid the following:
- Do not put pressure on or rubbing your eyes
- Do not lift any heavy objects
- Avoid swimming, as water may infect the eyes
- Avoid using eye makeup
How soon can you Recover from Cataract Surgery?
The side effects of cataract surgery, like blurred vision or watering, do not last long. That being said, you may still need 4 to 6 weeks to heal completely.
As noted above, you will visit your doctor during your recovery to monitor your progress.
During your recovery, you could do some normal day-to-day work. However, you shouldn’t stress your eyes for two or three days after the surgery.
Do You Need to Use Glasses Right After Cataract Surgery?
You may need to wait till your eyes heal from the surgery to use your glasses. It may take up to 6 weeks for your eyes to heal.
However, you may sometimes need up to 3 months to fully recover. You can wear glasses after that.
What Are the Complications of Cataract Surgery?
While mostly successful, cataract surgery carries a few risks that might include symptoms like eye bleeding and glaucoma. You can also have side effects like eye inflammation and eye infection.
Instead, the lens capsule that holds your artificial lens gets frosty. As a result, you cannot see very clearly as light cannot enter the eyes.
The condition needs minor laser surgery to make a small cut on the lens capsule. It allows light to enter your eyes and restore your eyesight.
The procedure takes only a few minutes, and you can return home after the process. Of course, you have to spend around an hour in the hospital after the procedure while the doctor monitors you for any discomfort.
The cost of cataract surgery in the U.K. varies on numerous factors. For example, hospitals in London may charge more for surgery compared to non-urban locations. The cost maybe upwards of £3,000 and even amount to £4,000 for each eye.
Or, you may have to pay more if you choose laser surgery over traditional procedures.
Independent clinics also offer cataract surgery in the U.K. For example, you may visit the Centre for Sight, an advanced provider of eye care and surgeries.
It offers laser cataract surgeries at £3,150 with a monofocal lens replacement. Surgeries with multifocal lenses cost £4,100 per eye, while toric lenses cost £3,995.
You may also go for the one-day cataract service care package at £2,050 per eye.
There are other providers you can also choose from. For example, cataract surgery at the Moorfields Private Eye Hospital with monofocal lenses costs £3,090. However, you will also have to pay a consultation fee of £225.
Other providers also offer cataract surgeries. One choice is OCL Vision clinics which charge £2,500 per eye for removing cataracts with monofocal lenses.
Below is a snapshot of costs of cataract surgery in the U.K. from providers we discussed:
|Toric Multifocal Lens
|£2,795 – £3,070
|BMI Healthcare/ Circle Health Group
|£2,073 – £2,119
|Practice Plus Group
|Ramsay Health Care
|£2,560 – £2,800
|£3,081 – £3,620
|£2,500 – £3,090
Get an Annual Eye Checkup
A cataract is a curable eye disease. You need to recognize your symptoms in time and visit a doctor for treatment options. Surgery may be suitable when cataracts are affecting your daily activities, hobbies, or professional life.
The NHS allows you to get a referral for surgery if your cataract is hampering your lifestyle seriously. In addition, you may have to wait for several months before the NHS gives you a date for your surgery.
You can expect to pay £1,995 to over £3,000 to get cataract surgery in the U.K.
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- Morgan, Ian G., Kyoko Ohno-Matsui, and Seang-Mei Saw. “Myopia.” The Lancet 379.9827 (2012): 1739-1748. ↩︎
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- Gogate, Parikshit, et al. “Meta-analysis to compare the safety and efficacy of manual small incision cataract surgery and phacoemulsification.” Middle East African journal of ophthalmology 22.3 (2015): 362. ↩︎
- Bourne, Rupert RA, et al. “Effect of cataract surgery on the corneal endothelium: modern phacoemulsification compared with extracapsular cataract surgery.” Ophthalmology 111.4 (2004): 679-685. ↩︎
- Roberts, Timothy V., et al. “Surgical outcomes and safety of femtosecond laser cataract surgery: a prospective study of 1500 consecutive cases.” Ophthalmology 120.2 (2013): 227-233. ↩︎