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Cataract Surgery – what to expect, aftercare and costs

Cataract surgery is essential to preserve vision when a cataract has formed on the lens of the eye. It involves the removal of the existing, cloudy lens which is then replaced with a tiny plastic or silicone intraocular lens.

Find out more about what to expect from cataract surgery, aftercare, lens choice, possible complications and the difference between NHS & private cataract surgery below.

Get in touch about cataract surgery
75
years
of combined eye
surgery experience
30k
plus
eye surgeries
completed
550
plus
lectures nationally
and internationally

Have questions about cataract surgery?

We’re here to help. Click here to contact our expert team.

What is cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery is the lens replacement surgery required when a cataract occurs in the eye. This is when the natural lens has lost its clarity and has become cloudy. The cataract causes blurred vision, loss of contrast and can make driving difficult. Cataracts can occur at any age but are most common in people over 60 years old, due to the natural ageing process of the eye. Cataracts can also be genetic, or caused by other factors such as diabetes or previous eye trauma.

If left untreated cataracts normally become larger, obstructing vision more over time, and eventually lead to blindness.

Cataract surgery removes the cloudy lens protein and replaces this with a lens implant that can correct your glasses prescription for distance and near vision.

What to expect from cataract surgery

Before surgery

The cataract treatment process will begin with a consultation with your surgeon, typically 1-4 weeks before your surgery. During this meeting, your consultant will perform specialist diagnostic tests on your eye and you’ll discuss lens choice.

A few things to bear in mind before the procedure:

  • We recommend taking at least two days off work for the surgery itself and recovery time (most people spend about 2.5 hours at the clinic on the day)
  • We suggest bringing sunglasses for your journey home after surgery
  • Please don’t wear any eye make up on surgery day
  • You may want to bring someone along to help you get home after the surgery, as your vision will remain blurry for up to 72 hours afterwards. You should not drive immediately after surgery, so should either arrange a lift from someone, use public transport or get a taxi home

On the day of surgery

When you’ve arrived at the clinic before surgery, you’ll be given some eye drops to dilate your pupil. A nurse will then discuss aftercare with you so you can be confident in how best to look after your eye following surgery.

Then you’ll be given more eye drops, this time a local anaesthetic to minimise pain during the procedure. The surgery typically only takes 10-15 minutes per eye to perform.

During the procedure, a small cut is made in the cornea, either using a surgical blade or a femtosecond laser. A hole is made in the capsule bag and the cataract broken up into tiny pieces to remove it. The new intraocular lens is then implanted through ultra-precise keyhole surgery. After surgery, you’ll be able to rest in our relaxation suite for 30-45 minutes.

After cataract surgery

You’ll have your eyes checked a final time before you go home. You’ll also be given some eye drops and instructions about how often to use them and for how long. Your eyes will feel tired and gritty for the remainder of the day, so do stay at home and rest. Your vision will be slightly misty for up to 72 hours after surgery, but you may notice a dramatic improvement in your sight immediately.

In the first couple of days post-surgery, you’re likely to experience some or all of the following:

  • Hazy vision; this is because your pupil will remain dilated for up to 48 hours after surgery
  • Sensitivity to light; again this is due to your dilated pupils
  • Haloes around light; this will normally settle before long
  • A gritty sensation, similar to the feeling of having a grain of sand stuck in the eye. You should not feel severe pain
  • A mild ache in your eye
  • Pinkish colouring to your eye, or possibly some bright red localised bruising, which is more likely if you’re taking aspirin or warfarin

Your pupil will return to its normal size after about two days and this will dramatically improve your overall vision.

Cataract surgery has extremely high success rates. At OCL we have serious complication rates lower than 0.2% and an infection rate of 0% due to our high standards of care and surgery always being performed by a consultant.

Find out more about what happens after cataract surgery, and which symptoms aren’t normal.

Cataract surgery lens choice

The simplest lens option for cataract surgery is a standard monofocal lens. This is what your surgeon will implant if you get cataract surgery on the NHS. This lens type corrects vision well, but can only be used for either distance or close-up vision, but not both.

A major advantage of getting private cataract surgery with OCL is that we offer the latest lens technologies to achieve the best possible unaided vision for our patients. All our lenses also have UV filters built in for added protection.

We offer a range of advanced lenses, including premium Monofocal, enhanced premium Monofocal (allowing for astigmatism correction) and Multifocal (allowing for correction of near, intermediate and distance vision).

More about lens choice

Possible complications of cataract surgery

Cataract surgery complications are uncommon. However, as with all surgery, there are some possible complications to be aware of.

The most common complication is posterior capsule opacification (PCO), which occurs in 5-10% of patients following cataract surgery at OCL. This is when you develop cloudy vision and happens when a membrane grows in the lens capsule, over your artificial lens. PCO is easily treatable with YAG laser treatment, which is offered by OCL and is a quick and painless procedure.

Other, more serious complications are very rare. These include:

  • Tearing of the lens capsule (0.2% at OCL)
  • Infection or bleeding (0% at OCL)
  • Retinal detachment (0.1% at OCL)
  • Sight loss (0% at OCL)

If you have any concerns about complications following your cataract surgery, please contact OCL and your surgeon will be able to check your eyes.

Cataract surgery: NHS or private?

There are a number of differences between going to the NHS for your cataract surgery, and going privately through OCL. Here are some of the key ones. You can read more here.

  • NHS waiting lists for cataract surgery are currently very long, meaning you could be waiting for up to a year. Going private means you can skip the waiting lists and have your surgery at a time that suits you
  • Our surgeons have been voted in the top 10 best cataract surgeons in the UK and are all consultants. You’re able to choose your surgeon at OCL, which isn’t possible in the NHS. Your surgeon will also oversee all stages of your treatment. Our complication and infection rates are so low due to the level of experience offered by our surgeons
  • Premium lens technologies allow us to optimise your vision beyond what NHS lens implants can offer. For example trifocal lenses, which aren’t available in the NHS, allow us to correct your near, intermediate and distance vision
  • We correct astigmatism as standard using toric lenses – these are generally only available in the NHS for high astigmatism
  • We offer Femto laser cataract surgery at an extra cost, which ensures blade-free precision and optimal lens placement. This technology isn’t available for NHS cataract surgery
  • Laser refinement of vision is possible following cataract surgery at OCL. This can help you to achieve your best possible vision and is particularly worth considering with trifocal lenses
  • Our surgeons all have in-depth knowledge when performing cataract surgery on people who have had previous LASIK or LASEK, because they also perform laser eye surgery. This is an important advantage as lens calculations are less predictable in prior laser patients. This is not a given for NHS surgeons performing cataract surgery

How much does cataract surgery cost?

Insurance Options

We provide fee assured private insurance services at our flagship Central London clinic and surgery facility for cataract surgery.

We are part of the AXA PPP and BUPA cataract networks; if you’re insured with these companies, we will bill your insurer a pre-agreed package price which includes your cataract consultation, diagnostic tests, surgery and aftercare.

Learn more about private insurance options at Ophthalmic Consultants of London here: Insurance options at OCL

Self-Pay Prices

We offer 0% interest finance options making it easier to spread the cost of surgery over up to 24 months.

A minimum 10% deposit is required and the balance is split over your chosen monthly period of either 6, 10, 12, 18 or 24 months at a rate of 0% APR.

Cataract surgery – Monofocal lens£2,500 per eye, or £94 over 24 months
Cataract surgery – Premium Monofocal lens£2,900 per eye, or £109 over 24 months
Cataract surgery – Premium Toric Monofocal lens £3,000 per eye, or £113 over 24 months
Cataract surgery – Premium Multifocal lens£3,600 per eye, or £135 over 24 months
Cataract surgery – Premium Toric Multifocal lens£4,100 per eye, or £154 over 24 months
Cataract surgery – IC-8 Lens£4,300 per eye, or £161 over 24 months
Femtosecond Laser-Assisted SurgeryAdditional £500 per eye

Alternatives to traditional cataract surgery

There are some alternatives to traditional cataract surgery that your surgeon may recommend based on various factors.

1

Our surgeons at OCL perform femtosecond laser cataract surgery with the use of a bladeless, femtosecond laser (the latest advance in cataract surgery), which offers a new level of precision to traditional cataract surgery. This technology is offered at an additional charge of £500 per eye.

Read more here

2

We can perform innovative lens implant surgery for people who are not suitable for standard cataract surgery or permanent lens replacement surgery, such as patients with irregular-shaped corneas, keratoconus and patients who have had radial keratotomy surgery.

Read more here

3

As experts in the treatment of high myopia, at OCL we have extensive research and practical expertise with Phakic IOL technology – the Visian implantable contact lens.

Read more here

4

Refractive lens exchange surgery (RLE), also known as PreLex (presbyopic lens exchange), clear lens extraction (CLE) and permanent lens replacement surgery is a type of surgery performed to treat patients with reading vision difficulty.

Read more here

Cataract surgery FAQs

Below we answer some of the most common questions our surgeons come across. You can find more FAQs on our top 13 cataract FAQ page.

1
How long can cataract surgery be postponed?

The decision to proceed with cataract surgery will depend on how well you see. As a cataract causes the natural lens in the eye to go cloudy, the longer you leave it, the more cloudy the lens becomes, progressively worsening your vision. In some people this can then lead to falls or the inability to legally drive. Most people notice an improvement in their vision within days of surgery and wish they had done it sooner.

2
Can you cure a cataract without surgery?

No – unfortunately there is no cure for a cataract without surgery. The only option is to remove the clouded lens and replace it with a new clear lens. There are many types of lenses available depending on your individual needs and whether you would prefer to be free from glasses after surgery.

3
Can you sleep on your side after cataract surgery?

Yes, you can sleep on your side, although we give you clear eye shields to wear for the first 2 nights to prevent you rubbing your eyes during the night, so you may find it more comfortable to lie on your back.

4
Do you wear an eyepatch after cataract surgery?

After cataract surgery we give you eye drops to use for 4 weeks. The drops include an antibiotic drop to help prevent any infection; 2 types of an anti-inflammatory drops to prevent any redness and lubricant drops to use regularly if your eyes feel tired or gritty.

We have an app which is free to download on your device that will send you notifications when your drops are due so that you never miss a drop.

Why choose OCL for cataract surgery?

These are some of the key reasons why our patients choose to have cataract surgery at OCL. Find out more about why you should choose OCL, including testimonials, here.

1
Treatment tailored for you

You are always at the centre of everything we do. We do not offer a one size fits all approach but rather customise every single treatment to your individual visual needs, so you’ll always get the best procedure for your eyes and your vision

2
The choice for healthcare professionals

Our surgeons are known the world over and are some of the best in the country, with over 30,000 completed surgeries between them. We treat many surgeons, doctors and anaesthetists who also refer their friends and family to us as they know they will be in safe hands with our expert surgeons

3
State of the art technology

We have spared no expense. Eye surgery requires perfect precision, that’s why we have invested in only the latest and most advanced technology. We are not tied into any particular company or manufacturer which means we have complete freedom to choose the best from the many options
available.

4
Experts you can trust

Patients need to be able to trust us with their eyes. We are honest with our approach and offer the very best evidence-based treatment with the your best interests always at heart. We pride ourselves on recruiting and retaining the best staff in the business to ensure that you are supported throughout every step of your journey.

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If you suffer from cataracts, you are more than likely suitable for surgery. If you have any questions around cataract surgery or our service, please feel free to make an enquiry or call us on 0203 369 2020