A cataract is a vision defect that manifests in clouding of the naturally clear lens located in the pupil and iris. Often, patients will complain of blurred vision and if left untreated the crystalline lens will become cloudy and turn opaque. Mostly, both eyes will be affected by cataracts simultaneously, but rarely does the disease develop rapidly on one eye than the other.
Cataracts are most common in older people and tend to develop gradually over time. They can normally be cured with a short operation that removes the cloudy lens and replaces it with an artificial plastic lens. Unless this surgery is carried out the patient can go blind which unfortuantely happens all too often in developing countries that don’t have the resources to carry out the number of operations necessary.
Cataract surgery is performed by an approved ophthalmologist on an outpatient basis, meaning that you are not required to stay in hospital after the surgery. It is a common surgery and is generally a safe procedure; if done correctly.
If you are having problems seeing objects properly due to cataracts your doctor may recommend cataract surgery. Also, if a cataract is interfering with the treatment of another vision defect such as myopia or hyperopia, cataract surgery may be recommended before the underlying defect is corrected. For instance, cataracts makes it impossible for doctors to examine the inner part of the eye for conditions such as macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy, thus it becomes necessary to recommend cataract surgery.
Cataract Eye Surgery Costs
If you don’t qualify for free cataracts surgery on the NHS, the cost of cataract eye surgery in the UK ranges between £1,800 and £3,000 which is inclusive of the doctor’s fees and other hospital related charges. However, expect the cost to vary from region to region across the UK, with London-based cataract removal clinics charging relatively more as compared to clinics in the north of the UK. Differences in pricing are attributed to many factors including the quality and specialisation of surgeons linked to each clinic and the clinics’ competitiveness in the area of operation.
While appreciating that the prices quoted above are an average, some eye clinics across the UK may offer special deals for cataract eye surgery. However, you should be aware that whilst clinics will often advertise offers on cataract surgery, it is important to read the small print carefully before committing to some of those offers. Some of the offers may not include all the necessary care after the surgery. To be safe, compare a selection of cataract eye surgery clinics and make the decision based on the surgeon’s professional experience and reputation.
Types of Cataracts
There are different types of cataracts with the most common being:
Age related cataracts: The most common type of eye cataracts are age related which affect almost one third of UK’s adult population. It manifests in cloudy eyes, blurred vision, visual imbalances, inability to see in low light and dulling of colours.
Congenital Cataracts: Occurs in very few people, this type of cataracts exists from birth or develops in childhood. Just like the other cataracts, both eyes are affected and the symptoms vary depending on severity and the degree of onset. The cause is not clearly documented but chromosomal defects or infections in the womb are highly associated with the condition.
Secondary Cataracts: Occur in the presence of conditions such as diabetes, drug and alcohol abuse or exposure to toxic substances such as radioactive rays and steroids.
Traumatic Cataracts: As the name implies, these occur as a result of eye injuries, and in some rare cases can be caused by electric shock.
The last three types of eye cataracts are usually complex to treat as compared to cataracts caused by age.
Cataracts surgery, recovery and complications
Cataracts can be treated by removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial plastic lens (an intraocular implant). Cataract surgery can be carried out in three ways, but each technique is dependent on severity of the trauma that necessitated the surgery. The techniques are:
Phacoemulsification: Involves breaking the cataract into small pieces using ultrasound and the fragments are sucked through a thin tube. The same incision is used to insert a replacement lens and functions like the extracted natural lens.
Extracapsular Cataract Surgery: This technique is adopted when the cataracts are at an advanced level and cannot be broken down using phacoemulsification. It is performed under local anesthesia and the doctor may recommend oral sedatives to relax the patient. The surgeon makes a small incision in the eye to remove the defective lens.
Intracapsular Cataract Surgery: This type of surgery involves creating a relatively larger incision than the other techniques. This technique is mostly used for people with extreme trauma. The larger incision makes it possible for the surgeon to remove the lens fully and in its place put an artificial intraocular lens.
Although cataract surgery is considered a low risk procedure, some complications have been reported including Posterior Capsules Opacification (PCO) resulting from additional cell growth in the lens and Cystoid Macular Oedema resulting from fluid build ups between the layers of the retina. Other common complications include retinal detachment, inflammation, cornea damage and eye infections.