What is a cataract?
Cataracts form when the eye’s natural lens becomes cloudy as a result of eye tissues breaking down and proteins clumping together. Those with cataracts find that everyday activities like driving a car or reading a newspaper become harder and colours become difficult to distinguish.
In the early stages of a cataract’s formation, you may have no symptoms at all. Often, cataracts are picked up early in their development by your optician at a routine eye test, long before they have affected your vision or require treatment.
If you notice these symptoms, it’s important to visit your optician to confirm that you are indeed suffering with a cataract.
Do you need surgery?
It's your decision whether or not to go ahead with cataract surgery. Cataracts usually slowly worsen over time and surgery is the only way to improve your eyesight.
Surgery is usually offered on the NHS if your cataracts are affecting your eyesight and quality of life. The decision to have surgery should not be based solely on your eye test (visual acuity) results. You may have other personal reasons for deciding to have surgery, such as your daily activities, hobbies and interests.
You can choose to put off having surgery for a while and have regular check-ups to monitor the situation. There are no medicines or eye drops that have been proven to improve cataracts or prevent them from getting worse.
How is cataract surgery performed?
Cataract surgery is a common and highly successful procedure that involves several key steps. It begins with the administration of local anaesthesia to numb the eye. A small incision is made in the cornea, allowing the surgeon to remove the cloudy natural lens affected by the cataract using ultrasound or laser technology. An artificial intraocular lens (IOL) is then implanted to replace the removed lens. The incision is closed, and most patients experience improved vision within a day or two, making the surgery a minimally invasive and highly effective solution for cataracts.
NHS Increasing Capacity Framework
Working hand-in-hand with our sister company, Ultralase Eye Clinics Limited, we are treating NHS patients through our Newton Abbot and Leicester clinics. We offer cataract surgery as well as glaucoma and dry eye treatment as part of the NHS Increasing Capacity Framework.
Cataract Surgery with NHS
Cataract treatment is an extremely straightforward procedure with over 400,000 cataract removal surgeries performed in the UK annually. Thousands of these treatments are carried out in our clinics each year. The procedure involves removing your eye’s natural lens and replacing it with a clear artificial lens. The treatment takes less than 10 minutes per eye and you are usually in and out of the treatment room within 20 minutes.
The recovery period is usually from around 3 days to 7 days, although this can vary from patient to patient. An optometrist will examine your eyes following your treatment to inform you when you can drive safely again. Most people will need to wear glasses for some tasks like reading after surgery, regardless of the type of lens they have fitted.
With the NHS, you'll usually be offered monofocal lenses, which have a single point of focus. This means the lens will be fixed for either near or distance vision, but not both. If you’re used to using one eye for distance and one for reading, you can ask to stay that way. This would mean you’ll get a near-sighted lens in one eye and a long-sighted lens in the other. If you have private cataract treatment, you may be able to choose either a multifocal or an accommodating lens, which allow the eye to focus on both near and distant objects. If you have cataracts in both eyes it may be recommended that both eyes are treated on the same day. This procedure is known as immediate sequential bilateral cataract surgery (ISBCS)*.*ISBCS is an option for patients who opt for private care and is usually only recommended for people thought to have a low risk of complications. The surgeon will discuss this with you if this is an option. Otherwise, surgery is carried out 6 to 12 weeks apart to allow the recovery of one eye at a time.
The Devon and Cornwall Care Record
A new NHS programme has been launched to improve the way you receive care.
The Devon and Cornwall Care Record is a secure system that brings together information about your healthcare and presents it as a single record.
The new Devon and Cornwall Care Record gives healthcare staff a more complete view of your medical history.
For you, this means quicker diagnoses, safer treatment and more co-ordinated care.
Find out more at: www.devonandcornwallcarerecord.nhs.uk
The healthcare provider and hospital that you receive your cataract treatment from is completely up to you. Our patients choose Optimax because of our 32 years of experience and our short referral times, with an average wait of 4-6 weeks between choosing us as your preferred clinic and the date of your first treatment.
After we have received your referral you’ll get a phone call from our NHS Patient Administrator. They will have a quick chat with you about whether cataract treatment is the right fit for you.
Following this call, you’ll be booked in for the first appointment we have available for a consultation with your assigned optometrist. Once your consultation is confirmed, we will send your NHS Pre-Assessment letter which will include some useful information for you to read before meeting your optometrist.
Your first appointment will be for us to perform a number of tests and examinations to confirm that cataract surgery is the best way forward for you. This appointment usually lasts between 1.5 to 2 hours, which includes the time it takes for your pupils to dilate.
Your test results will then be looked over and analysed by your assigned optometrist, who will have a discussion with you about the benefits and risks of surgery. If you need treatment in both eyes, we will discuss with you which eye we recommend to treat first (this will usually be the eye you’re struggling the most with).
We make a point to discuss the details of cataract surgery with all prospective patients, including the benefits and risks of such a procedure. Once we have answered all your questions, your optometrist will give you a consent form, as well as your appointment letter and information to address our most frequently asked questions. If you’re happy to move forward with the procedure, please ensure that you sign and bring this consent form with you on the day of your first surgery. This lets the team know that we have your permission for the surgery to go ahead. Once consent is confirmed, we’ll book you in for treatment.