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Also see Cataract Surgery.

Cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens that gradually impairs the vision.

This clouding occurs as we age and usually starts to impair the vision during the seventh decade. It can present earlier in some patients, such as those with diabetes, a past history of trauma to the eye, a past history of corticosteroid use (eye drops or tablets) or a family history of early onset cataract.

cataract progression

As the clouding worsens, the vision usually worsens very slowly and the loss in clarity may not be easily apparent until the vision is measured formally on an eye chart.

As well as blurring of the vision, many patients experience difficulty with glare - either during the day due to the sunlight or at night whilst driving.

glare and without

CATARACT

Cataract surgery is the only way to cure cataract and restore the vision. The surgery is commonly performed using some version of phacoemulsification (ultrasonic tools to break up the cataract and remove it).

The latest addition to that procedure is to perform the first half of the operation with a Femtosecond Laser. This provides a level of accuracy that is not possible by hand and can improve the outcome in some patients.

When the cloudy cataract is removed, a new clear lens is inserted to restore the vision. This lens needs to be calculated prior to surgery and therefore the eyes need to be measured with a number of extremely accurate machines. At Eye Surgeons SA, each patient has at least 10 variables measured for each eye and then 5 of the latest, most accurate calculations are performed to ensure that the most appropriate lens is chosen.

cataract IOL planpentacam

The surgery is performed as a day procedure in an accredited day surgery facility or private hospital with highly trained nursing staff and anaesthetists to assist the eye surgeon. Most patients require only a small amount of sedative to relax them, but some request a deeper anaesthetic so that they are totally unaware during the procedure. Local anaesthetic is also used to reduce any pain in the eye during the operation.

Recovery from cataract is very fast and most patients can drive the next day. The vision usually improves over the course of one week, but it can take up to 1 month to fully stabilise.

The decision to have surgery should be based on how much the vision is affected. Fortunately, cataract is almost never an emergency and therefore the decision does not need to be rushed.

As with all surgery, cataract surgery has the potential for problems to occur and these need to be discussed prior to booking surgery. Fortunately, serious complications are rare with modern techniques and technologies.

The cost of cataract surgery is usually covered by Private Hospital Insurance except if Laser Assisted Cataract Surgery is chosen - this always incurs a fee (between $500 and $1000 per eye), which is not covered by either Medicare or Private Insurance.

Uninsured patients can expect to pay around $1500 per eye to have cataract surgery with a standard intraocular lens being used (includes all fees from surgeon, anaethetist and hospital). Higher costs are incurred with the use of more expensive intraocular lenses (toric or multifocals) or if Laser Assisted Surgery is preferred. The price will always be accurately quoted prior to booking surgery to ensure that there are no "hidden" expenses. 

Cataract will never recur but some patients require the new lens in their eye to be polished at around 6 to 12 months after the surgery. This is performed easily and painlessly in the clinic and doesn’t usually require repeat treatment.