Cataract surgery

What is cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery is a procedure to remove the lens of your eye and, in most cases, replace it with an artificial lens.

Normally the lens of your eye is clear. A cataract causes the lens at the front of the eye to become cloudy which eventually causes visual impairment.  

Cataracts are usually a result of ageing.  During surgery, the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial, foldable lens implant to improve vision. 

Cataracts can cause blurry vision and increase the glare from lights. If a cataract makes it difficult for you to carry out your normal activities your GP may suggest cataract surgery.

Cataract surgery is also offered when a cataract interferes with the treatment of another eye problem. For example, if a cataract makes it difficult for your consultant to examine the back of your eye to monitor or treat other eye problems such as age-related macular degeneration.

There are several artificial lenses available which can correct both near, and far, sightedness.  Lens technology has progressed over recent years allowing a tailored approach to be adopted. 

Monofocal lenses are the most common lens type used by surgeons however for those who wish to reduce their reliance on reading glasses multifocal lenses are available.

A multifocal lens gives multiple focal points in the distance and near vision. Some of the very newest multifocal lenses cover immediate vision however there can be a degree of compromise here too.

Toric lenses are used to help patients with astigmatism (where the front of the eye is shaped more like a rugby ball). A small amount of astigmatism is very common. Both monofocal and multifocal lenses are available as Toric lenses. 

Your consultant will advise you on which lens is the most suitable. There are some eye conditions, including astigmatism, which may limit the choices. 

There are extra costs associated with premium lens cataract surgery. Multifocal lenses and Toric lenses are premium lenses. 

When to consider cataract surgery

These are the questions to ask when considering cataract surgery:

  • Can you see safely when driving?
  • Is it difficult doing everyday tasks?
  • Is your vision affecting your quality of life?
  • Do bright lights make it more difficult to see?
  • Do you have problems reading or watching TV?
  • Do your vision problems affect your ability to be independent?

What does cataract removal surgery involve?

Cataract removal surgery is performed under local anaesthetic and takes an hour or less to perform.  

Your surgeon will place eye drops in your eye to dilate your pupil. You'll receive local anaesthetic to numb the area.

During cataract surgery (phacoemulsification) the cloudy lens is removed, and a clear artificial lens is usually implanted.

Your surgeon makes a tiny incision in the front of the eye and inserts a needle-thin probe into the lens substance where the cataract has formed.

Your surgeon uses the probe to break down the cataract with ultrasound waves and suction out the fragments.

The lens will then be removed from its capsule in the eye through a small incision.  

A new lens will then be implanted through the same incision and held in place by the original capsule. 

Advanced technology for cataract surgery

The VERION Image Guided System by Alcon is designed to provide greater accuracy and efficiency during cataract surgery.  

The VERION System is comprised of three main components.  The first takes key measurements of the eye.  The second enables the surgeon to utilise those measurements to determine an optimised surgical plan, including what power replacement lens to implant.  The third features a digital overlay that enables the surgeon to determine accurate replacement lens alignment based on the unique anatomy of the patient's eye.  All of these components come together to help the surgeon consistently achieve their refractive targets.

Only a handful of hospitals in the UK currently use state-of-the-art VERION technology.  It is particularly useful in patients with co-existing astigmatism.  Astigmatism is a common eye condition that occurs when the cornea isn't a perfectly curved shape.  Instead of having a regular, 'football-shaped' curve, the cornea is shaped more like a rugby ball and results in blurred vision without glasses.

Astigmatism can be corrected during cataract surgery with the aim of minimising the need for glasses after the operaton.  At St Joseph's we use VERION to place a special toric lens into the eye with a precision and accuracy that was previously impossible. 

How soon will I recover?

After a couple of days, most of the discomfort should disappear. Often complete healing occurs within eight weeks.

Expect your vision to begin improving within a few days. Your vision may be blurred at first as your eye heals and adjusts.

Colours may appear brighter after your surgery because you are looking through a new, clear lens.

You are likely to be able to leave hospital an hour or so after the procedure.  You will not be able to drive until the lens has settled; this usually takes around a day.

You will be given eye drops and should not touch or rub the eye excessively for a few weeks following your surgery.  

Your vision will be blurry for a few hours post-surgery and you will have some sensitivity to light.   

There are some limitations on your activities for the first few weeks. Heavy lifting and stooping must be avoided for example, however after this period you can recommence normal physical activity.

Avoid applying eye make-up until advised by your surgeon - this is usually a few days after surgery.

You will need to have an eye test after a month to reassess your glasses prescription.  

 

Cataract removal is generally considered to be one of the safest and most successful operations in modern medicine.  

However, some patients may have co-existing conditions that may alter the risk of surgery.  Overall, on average 1% of patients may lose vision from cataract surgery.

All surgery and anaesthetic have some risk associated.  Risks to all surgeries include infection, excessive bleeding, adverse reaction to anaesthetic or blood clotting.

Cataract removal can also result in detachment of the retina, damage to the capsule which holds the lens, or reactive swelling in the other eye.  

Your surgeon will take the time to explain the risks to you.  If you have any specific risk, these will form part of your preoperative consultation and will be carefully explained to you.

At your consultation, you will be offered a choice of lenses, including the latest premium lenses that are not usually available on the NHS. Not all lenses are suitable for your eyes; your consultant will help you choose the lens that is right for you.

Monofocal lens - this is the standard lens which has a single point of focus. You can choose whether to fix the lens for close or distance vision but will need to wear glasses for some tasks. You may select monovision, in which one eye has a lens for distance vision and the other for close work.

Multifocal lens - These lenses have several different focusing distances allowing you to focus on things that are near and further away. However distant vision can sometimes be of lower quality.

Premium lenses - These are not suitable for everyone and may not be funded by medical insurance, but they can allow you to be less dependent on wearing glasses.

Pricing

Initial consultation From: £150
Treatment £2,650
Pre-assessment Included
Main treatment Included
Post-discharge care Included
Guide price £2,800

Initial consultation From: £150
Treatment £2,950
Pre-assessment Included
Post-discharge care Included
Guide price £3,100

*The above prices are guide prices only and subject to change at any given time. Diagnostic scans and investigations are not part of the guide price. The guide price indicates the starting price for the treatment.

The cost of treatment will be made clear to you before you proceed with any tests, scans, consultations, or treatment. Please read our terms and conditions. If you have private medical insurance please follow the guidance here.

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