Over 200,000 cataract operations are carried out in the UK each year. Ophthalmic surgeons at Spire Hull and East Riding Hospital perform a significant number of cataract operations to both patients with private medical insurance and self-funding patients. This frequently performed eye surgery to replace ‘cloudy’ natural lenses with an implant offers patients a rapid improvement in sight following surgery.
What is cataract removal?
Cataract removal involves taking out the cloudy lens in your eye and replacing it with a clear, artificial implant to restore your vision. The cataract removal procedure most commonly performed is known as phacoemulsification.
Phacoemulsification is usually done as a day-case under a local anaesthetic. This means you stay awake during the cataract operation but your eye will be completely numb. You may be offered a sedative to help ensure that you are relaxed and comfortable throughout the procedure.
Your surgeon will explain the benefits and any risks of cataract removal, and will also discuss the alternatives to the procedure. Cataracts typically occur in both eyes, but they are usually treated one at a time.
Before the operation
Before the cataract operation, eye drops are given to dilate (widen) your pupil. This makes it easier for your surgeon to see the lens inside your eye. You won’t be able to see out of your eye as it is being treated, but you may be aware of light and movement. This is normal, and to be expected.
During the cataract removal operation
You will be asked to lie in a reclined position in a special chair. Local anaesthetic eye drops will be put into your eye to gently numb the outer surface. A local anaesthetic injection into the area around the eye may also be used. This will feel like a sharp sensation, which passes quickly.
Once the anaesthetic has taken effect, your surgeon will make a tiny cut on the surface of your eye and use ultrasound energy to break up the cloudy lens. The fragments are removed with a fine tube and a new lens is inserted. This usually takes 15 to 20 minutes.
After cataract surgery
Afterwards, your eye may be covered with a protective pad. You may need to wear this for a few hours. It is normal to have an itchy or sticky eye and blurry vision for a few days afterwards. Your eye may also ache, but this generally settles down within 10 to 14 days. There is a slight possibility that your eyelid or eye will be bruised, but again this should settle over a few days.
How safe is cataract removal?
Cataract removal is commonly performed and generally safe. However all operations carry risks as well as benefits.
Possible complications of cataract surgery are listed below – in rare cases these can lead to reduced vision or blindness.
- Heavy bleeding inside your eye. This may require further surgery.
- Infection of the eye. This may require antibiotic treatment.
- Tearing of the supporting capsule behind the lens.
- Lens dislocation. This may require further surgery.
- Posterior capsular opacification – when the supporting capsule behind the lens thickens, resulting in reduced vision. The condition develops in up to one in five people within five years of the operation. Simple laser treatment can be used to correct this.
The chance of complications depends on the exact type of operation you are having and other factors such as your general health. Ask your surgeon to explain in more detail how any risks apply to you.
Is cataract removal available on the NHS?
Cataract removal surgery is currently being restricted by the NHS in some areas of the UK and waiting lists are becoming significantly longer. In a number of areas of the UK the local NHS has restricted provision to those with advanced symptoms. For these reasons many people opt for private treatment.
Why should I consider having cataracts removed at a Spire hospital?
Whether you have medical insurance or are paying for your treatment yourself, with Spire Healthcare you will be seen quickly by the consultant-grade doctor of your choice at a time that suits you. You will be treated in a premium private hospital with some of the UK's highest standards of cleanliness and infection control.
To find out more about having a cataract removed privately or to get a guide price, simply