Our vision is precious, and experiencing a visual impairment can severely impact our quality of life and mental health. If you've developed cataracts, there's a quick and simple operation to restore your vision. What does it involve, and what are the benefits of opting for private surgery? Here's our guide.
The front of your eye has a clear disc called a lens. This is usually clear, but cloudy patches can start forming as we age - this is known as a cataract.
A cataract can form slowly or quickly depending on whether a patient has any medical conditions impacting their vision and overall health.
Cataracts can cause vision loss. The World Health Organization has reported that they're the world's leading cause of blindness if untreated. That's why it's essential to seek treatment and consider cataract surgery at an early stage.
Your consultant ophthalmic surgeon will consider the impact of the cataract on your quality of life and not just your eye test results. If you're an NHS patient, you'll be offered cataract surgery if your vision loss severely affects your daily life.
The main benefit of cataract surgery is the dramatic improvement in your sight. A cataract can cause blurred vision, difficulty distinguishing between colours, and glare when looking at bright light. An operation can relieve all of these symptoms.
It's important to note that if you have another eye condition, for example, glaucoma or diabetes, you may still have some issues with your sight.
Eye surgery is relatively safe, however, you may want to wait, have regular checkups, and see how your cataract affects your daily life before you decide whether to have surgery.
There aren't currently any other treatments or medications to improve a cataract.
Private treatment has various benefits, from shorter waiting times to hotel-style facilities. Here are some of the benefits of opting for private eye surgery.
You've probably heard that NHS waiting lists are currently extremely lengthy. If you've had a consultation with a consultant ophthalmic surgeon, you may have been told that you'll face a long wait for surgery on the NHS.
By contrast, private patients benefit from much shorter waiting times.
You may also have experienced other vision loss if you've developed an age-related cataract. NHS treatment can only resolve your cataract and can't be adapted to resolve other eye issues in the way that private treatment can, so you'd need to have laser eye surgery separately if you want to get rid of your glasses or contact lenses.
Most private clinics invest in advanced technology to offer you a personalised treatment plan with a range of treatment options.
During cataract surgery, you'll be fitted with an artificial lens. The NHS only offer monofocal lenses. Monofocal lens implants have a single point of focus. That means that if you have a monofocal lens, you'll be able to use the eye for close-up tasks like reading or seeing objects at a distance, but not both.
With private treatment, you can choose multifocal lens implants. Multifocal lenses adapt to allow your eye to adjust its focus depending on what you're looking at. A multifocal lens can also help with other sight issues.
Your surgery cost will depend on several factors. The prices can vary depending on the location of your hospital or clinic and the facilities on offer.
It's important to consider what facilities are essential to you. Are you willing to travel further to see more experienced surgeons? If you've already had a consultation at an NHS hospital, you may be able to see the same consultant on a private basis.
We recommend getting quotes from different providers to make a comparison.
If you've contacted several hospitals and received quotes, it's important to check each one carefully to see what's included. You should be given a fixed price quote, but some will only cover the surgery, while others will include follow-up appointments.
You may see additional costs if your consultant has recommended further tests. Check whether your treatment package includes follow-up visits.
The cost of cataract surgery in the UK varies depending on your location, with the average currently being £2,775 (January 2023).
Here's the average cost of cataract surgery by city:
It's important to remember that these costs will vary depending on the hospital and eye surgeon you choose.
Now you know how much you can expect to pay, you might wonder how you can fund the operation. You have a few different payment options, including insurance, a finance plan, or paying for treatment yourself.
Self-pay is the most straightforward option for private cataract surgery as long as you have the funds available.
The provider you choose will invoice you for your treatment. You can pay a minimum deposit and then settle the balance later.
If you need to spread the cost, most private hospitals have partnerships with finance companies offering different payment plans and finance options. The most common financing options are loans offering interest-free credit.
These finance plans allow you to make monthly payments to spread your surgery costs.
Your health insurance could pay for your treatment if your policy covers it, with your inpatient cover will funding the operation and perhaps some aftercare appointments. You'll need outpatient cover for any other consultant-led care, for example, your initial appointment or diagnostic eye tests.
If you've had eye problems in the past, your operation may not be covered as your insurance company will typically exclude pre-existing conditions.
Here's what you can expect from the entire process, from the run-up to your operation to your recovery.
You'll have an initial consultation before your operation. Some private clinics, such as Optical Express, perform your assessment on the day of your surgery, while others offer a separate appointment.
The assessment includes checking your vision and taking measurements of your eyes. Your specialist will discuss the procedure and what happens when your treatment is complete.
The operation is usually carried out under local anaesthetic. You'll also be given eye drops.
The surgeon makes a small incision in your eye, removes the cloudy lens and replaces it with a lens implant.
The whole process takes from 30-45 minutes.
When the procedure is complete, you can rest in a recovery room. You'll have a shield and dressing over your eye; your surgeon will tell you how long you'll need to wear this.
You should be able to go home on the same day. It may take a few days for your sight to return to normal, so it's a good idea to ask a friend or relative to drive you home.
Most patients experience blurred or double vision, a bloodshot eye, grittiness and watering eyes for a few days afterwards.
A full recovery can take around 4-6 weeks. You'll be given eye drops and advice about using your eye shield. You should rest for a few days but can still read and watch TV. You can shower as usual, but it's important to avoid getting soap or shampoo in your eye.
You should also avoid swimming and wearing eye makeup for 4 to 6 weeks. Your doctor will tell you when you can return to work or start driving again.
If you still need glasses after your operation, you'll need to let your vision settle before having an eye test. Many opticians find that their patient's prescription has changed.
Most patients make a full and straightforward recovery; however, around 1 in 50 patients will experience serious complications. These can include sight loss, blurred vision or a detached retina.
Retinal tears can be resolved with laser eye surgery; however, a detachment typically needs an operation. Other complications can be resolved with surgery or medication.
There is a slight risk of permanent sight loss, which affects around 1 in 1,000 patients.
If you have a cataract, we hope this guide has helped you to consider your options and the benefits of private treatment.
Disclaimer: This information is general and what is best for you will depend on your personal circumstances. Please speak with a financial adviser or do your own research before making a decision.
Yes, you can. You can choose a private hospital or a specialist clinic and fund this yourself or with private medical insurance.
The average cost of cataract surgery in the UK is £2,775.
If you have treatment on the NHS you'll be given a monofocal lens implant with a fixed focal point. Private treatment allows you to choose a multifocal lens implant that can correct other visual impairments and avoid the need for separate laser eye surgery.
Your surgeon makes a small incision in your eye and replaces your cloudy lens with a lens implant. Patients can typically go home on the same day as the procedure and make a full recovery in 4-6 weeks.