How much does cataract surgery cost?
Cataract surgery is a complex procedure which must be performed by a trained ophthalmology specialist using advanced equipment, meaning the final cost of cataract surgery can prove to be a significant investment.
The final cost estimate for cataract surgery depends on a range of factors. The geographical location of the clinic or hospital is probably the most influential factor, with the cost of cataract surgery varying dramatically from country to country. While the idea of travelling abroad may seem like an alarming prospect, the lack of access to treatment in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia has resulted in many patients looking further afield for their cataract surgery. The average cost of cataract surgery in the United States is around $3,429; in Mexico, however, the procedure can be found for $2,010.
Another aspect which influences the price of cataract surgery is the experience and reputation of the surgeon. You can expect to pay significantly more to be seen by a surgeon with decades of experience or who comes highly-recommended. Assessing the qualifications and training of a surgeon is one way of determining how much experience they have, with many ophthalmologists working in countries such as India or Thailand having trained and worked internationally.
Similarly, the standing of the hospital or clinic where you choose to undergo your surgery can affect the final cost. Many hospitals have built a reputation through years of quality care and patient satisfaction, and you can expect to pay a little more to be treated there. By reading patient reviews and clinic profiles you can gain a sense of whether the clinic's reputation is reflected in reality – a higher cost estimate doesn't necessarily mean that you will receive a greater standard of treatment.
Many surgery providers are able to offer a range of services aimed at international patients such as airport transfers, hotel booking, translation services and car rental, whilst the majority of cataract surgery hospitals and clinics that cater for international patients will employ English-speaking staff. Services such as these will most probably not be included in the initial cost estimate you receive, although some clinics may offer them free-of-charge.
How long is the waiting time for cataract surgery?
Ophthalmologists and specialist cataract surgeons in the UK and the US face high demand and large volumes of patients, and the waiting times for cataract surgery can be longer than elsewhere. On the NHS in the UK, the average waiting time for cataract surgery is around 24 days, but this can vary wildly from region to region. In the south of England, for example, the average waiting time for cataract surgery is 102 days, whilst patients in London can expect to wait up to 85 days for their treatment. In Canada, on the other hand, only 75% of patients are able to undergo cataract surgery within 16 weeks.
One of the main motivations for patients travelling abroad for cataract surgery is to cut down on waiting times. The majority of hospitals offering cataract surgery in countries such as India, Spain, Mexico and Turkey are able to accommodate patients flexibly, and you should be able to choose your desired date of surgery.
Cataract surgery – patient story
There was too long of a waiting list for Bruce to have cataract surgery in Australia – he would have had to wait one year for the surgery under Medicare.
Having been to Thailand many times before, Bruce knew that there is high quality as well as low quality, but made the right decision through the Medigo platform. He found the Thainakarin Hospital to be first class, citing the very professional, bilingual staff as a key factor in this.
Price was the first important factor, then Bruce spoke with the hospital and also asked friends of his there in Thailand of their opinion. These helped to form a reference for him about the hospital, leading to his eventual choice.
How is cataract surgery performed?
The most common technique used for cataract surgery is known as phacoemulsification. This involves a small incision being made in the surface of the eye, through which the damaged lens can be removed. Once the incision has been made, small vibratory waves are sent into the cornea in order to break up the lens. Using a suction device the fragmented pieces of the lens are then removed via the incision. Advancements in laser technology mean that the incision made during cataract surgery is minimal and highly precise.
Once the lens has been fully extracted, the replacement can be implanted. This is known as an intraocular lens (IOL). IOLs are generally made of silicone, plastic or other synthetic materials such as a acrylic and are custom made to address the individual needs of the patient. The lens is inserted into the eye via the same incision used to remove the natural lens. In most cases and IOL implant will last a lifetime, and the lens does not need to be take out or replaced at any time. Although the lens is not always able to correct pre-existing eye conditions it is possible that following surgery you will no longer be so dependant on eyeglass or other lenses. Likewise, the implantation of the IOL could mean that you need to change any existing glass or lens prescriptions.
The procedure for cataract surgery is performed under local anesthesia and lasts around one hour. General anesthesia can be used on request but is used very rarely. The vast majority of cataract surgeries are completed without complications – around 98%. Performed on an outpatient basis, you are able to return home immediately following the surgery. The results of the cataract surgery will be apparent in the 24 hours after the procedure. There is a very small chance that the implanted lens will cloud over again – in this case, it will need to be removed and a new one fitted.
What is a cataract?
The naturally clear lens of the eye, which is essential in the processing of light and vision in general, often becomes clouded with age. This is known as a cataract. Once a cataract develops vision can quickly deteriorate, and the only effective treatment to prevent further deterioration is the surgical removal of the clouded lens. An artificial lens is then inserted as a replacement.
Cataracts are most common in people over the age of 50, as the ageing process naturally results in the decline of the eye's health. In rare cases a cataract may be present at birth or develop from a very early age. Substance abuse can also be a contributory factor, and a cataract can also emerge as the result of chemicals getting into the eye.
Recognising when a cataract is present and seeking treatment early is vital in preventing the further worsening of the condition. If you are looking for cataract surgery, MEDIGO's ultimate guide can help you in your search, with information on how to find a surgeon abroad and what exactly you can expect from the surgery.
Cararact surgery myths
What are the symptoms of cataracts?
Most people first become aware of a cataract developing after their vision becomes blurred, cloudy or generally out of focus. If you suspect you have a cataract due to blurry vision you should consult an ophthalmologist as soon as possible, who can then accurately diagnose whether you have cataracts or not. An eye exam will be carried out in order to rule out any other possible underlying conditions that could be behind the blurred vision.
In older people particularly, the first indication that a cataract is developing is a change in how the eye processes colour – you might notice that you are seeing certain colours in different shades or intensities than before.
Cataracts may also cause issues with glare and the processing of bright lights.
How can I prevent cataracts
The most obvious step you can take is to keep your eyes in good condition and take the health of your eyes extremely seriously. However, as the causes of cataracts are not entirely clear, there is no way of guaranteeing that a cataract will not appear. Undergoing regular eye examinations is important as cataracts can be diagnosed much earlier.
Some studies also suggest that genetics and family history can be a contributory factor. If cataracts are prevalent in your family then you may have a higher chance of developing them in future.