You may be a patient (in need of cataract surgery), a relative or a family friend and are looking for cataract information.
First, we would like to reassure you that the majority of people are able to get cataract treatment; helping to improve your eyesight and also improving quality of life for many individuals.
Cataracts are pretty common in adults, about 30% of adults aged 65+ will have a cataract that is affecting their vision and requires treatment. And, cataract surgery (which is a relatively straightforward procedure) is the most common operation performed today in the UK, with about 350,000 surgeries performed each year.
So, you may be wondering exactly what a cataract is and why you’ve got one (or two)…
A cataract is a clouding of the lens in your eye. As you age, proteins in your natural lens begin to break down and the lens becomes clouded. Some people don’t even realise they have a cataract because it usually grows very slowly and may not impede vision early on.
You may experience one or more of the following cataracts symptoms:
It’s best to see an optician if you think you have cataracts, they will perform a thorough eye check and be able to confirm whether what you’re experiencing are indeed cataracts symptoms and if they’re present in either, or both, of your eyes.
We’ve put together a journey map for patients, containing all the information you need to know from diagnosis, to treatment, to post cataract surgery. This is to demonstrate the different stages of cataract treatment and what can be expected at each stage. You may be right at the beginning of your journey and haven't yet been diagnosed, or somewhere in the middle and wondering what comes next. We hope you find this useful and that it answers some of your questions – please call us if you would like any more information about any of the stages or what to expect on your patient journey.
If you’re having trouble with your eyes and/or sight then you need to get your eyes checked as soon as possible by your local optician, who will examine your eyes and conduct a sight test to check the quality of your vision. The optician will be able to refer you to SpaMedica or another eye hospital or specialist, depending on what treatment or surgery you require.FIND AN OPTICIAN
Most people don’t realise that NHS cataract surgery patients can choose where they get treated.
Think about what’s important for you – eg time to treatment, distance to hospital, consultant experience, the quality of the hospital.
98% of our patients choose SpaMedica because of our short waiting times – usually three to four weeks for surgery/treatment. Click here to view SpaMedica’s 5 star rating and reviews from patients for each of our hospitals on NHS Choices.
You need to let your optician or GP know which healthcare provider and hospital you would like to go to and they will then send a referral to your chosen provider. You should hear back from your provider within two to three weeks following your referral. If you have not heard anything then you can contact the person who referred you, this will be your optician or GP.
If you have chosen SpaMedica as your preferred provider and are having difficulty getting a cataract operation appointment at one of our hospitals please call your local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and let them know.FIND YOUR CCG
Your chosen hospital/provider will contact you by phoning you, or sending you a letter to book an appointment to begin your cataract treatment. Our SpaMedica Referrals team calls each of our patients within two to three days of us receiving your referral. We talk through the next steps with you, answer any questions you may have and you can choose an appointment date to suit you.
You will receive written confirmation of your appointment date and information on cataract surgery. SpaMedica provides each patient with a comprehensive cataract information booklet on cataract surgery, which includes what you can expect at each stage of your patient journey. You can download a copy of this booklet by clicking here.
The purpose of your first appointment at the hospital is to run a thorough check on your eyes to confirm that cataract surgery is the best treatment for you. Several eye tests will be conducted, with your appointment lasting about 1.5 to 2 hours (which includes about 40 minutes to allow your pupils to dilate – see below).
Dilating the eyes causes blurred vision and sensitivity to light, meaning that you won’t be able to drive; so, it’s important to make sure you organise a lift or arrange transport to/from the hospital. SpaMedica provides free transport for some patients, based on your location and other criteria – if you’re struggling to find transport please speak to a member of our Referrals team to see if you qualify for free transport.
Please feel free to ask the nurse and/or optometrist at your preoperative appointment any questions you may have about your surgery.
You’ll need to bring your current glasses, a list of your current medications, record book (if you’re diabetic or taking blood-thinning medication) and a contact number for a relative/friend. If you wear contact lenses these should not be worn for at least 48 hours before your appointment.
So, what will happen at this appointment?
Cataract surgery is relatively straightforward and is the most common operation performed in the UK today.
SpaMedica is the largest provider of cataract surgery, and in 2018 we performed more than 20,000 cataract surgeries.
It is very normal to be apprehensive about your surgery, but please be reassured that the SpaMedica team are very caring, extremely friendly and will support you through every step on your surgery day; they’ll put your mind at ease, explain what is happening at each stage, discuss any concerns you may have and make you as comfortable as possible throughout your stay.
Before you look at the details of your cataract surgery there are two very important things you need to know that should help put your mind at rest:
All the anaesthetics and medication for your eyes are administered by eye drops and a tiny pellet is used to dilate the pupils; so, there is no need to worry about any needles or injections.
You will be at the hospital on the day of your cataract surgery for about 2 to 3 hours, but the actual surgery itself usually lasts about 10 minutes.
Here’s some detailed information about what to expect during your cataract surgery appointment – all of the SpaMedica team are here to support you, make you feel at ease and make your surgery day as stress-free as possible.
There are some common symptoms following surgery, such as blurred vision, a scratchy feeling in your eye, your eye watering a little, a dull ache over your eyes and sensitivity to bright light – these are all normal and shouldn’t last more than a couple of days. If you experience any aches or pain after surgery we suggest you take painkillers, such as paracetamol, using the recommended dosage. You should avoid aspirin, unless this has been prescribed for you. You can wear sunglasses the day after surgery for light sensitivity, make sure these are cleaned well before you put them on.
The most important thing following surgery is to protect the eye from infection, so it’s important not to rub or touch the eye.
The eye shield should stay on for the day and night following surgery and it’s designed for you to be able to sleep with it on. This can be removed in the morning, the day after surgery.
You’ll need to begin using your eye drops on the day after your surgery, as prescribed by SpaMedica.
If your eye is sticky and your vision is blurred the day after surgery, or later on, then you can bathe your eye. You’ll have been given a pack of sterile swabs to use for bathing the eye. You should boil some water (this provides sterilisation), allow this to cool and then bathe the eye with the swab and water. Make sure you wash your hands before and after bathing your eye. Soak the swab in the cooled water and wipe once across your eye while it is closed. Repeat with a new swab if needed.
If you are coming back to SpaMedica for your post-op appointment you will have chosen a date and time before you left on your surgery day. If your optician is a member of the SpaMedica Accredited Partner Scheme, then you should contact them to book an appointment for about 2 to 4 weeks after your surgery.
The main thing to consider following eye surgery is to reduce the risk of infection in the eye, so it’s important to avoid any environments or activities that would increase this risk eg dusty gardens and swimming pools.
Urgent post-care – If you experience any of the following symptoms following surgery then please call our emergency helpline on 0161 838 0883 – if you have a general enquiry please call 0330 058 4280, the helpline is for emergencies only.
Glasses – For most patients, vision will have improved following surgery and you’ll require a new prescription if you wear glasses. If you require surgery on one eye only then you can get new lenses/prescription for your glasses once you’ve had your 4-week post-operative visit. If you’re having surgery on both eyes then we recommend you visit your optician after your first eye surgery – they can make a temporary change to your glasses e.g pop-out lens (they’ll usually do this for free) or replace with non-prescription lens (there may be a small charge for this) if your vision is better in your treated eye. You should return to see your optician to get a new prescription for your glasses when your cataract surgery is completed for both eyes, this could be at your 4-week post-operative visit if this is with your optician or following your 4-week post-op visit to SpaMedica.
Driving – It takes a few days for your eyesight to adjust, so you should wait at least 48 hours after surgery before driving or operating machinery. Please note that you cannot drive until your eyesight meets the legal driving requirement i.e be able to read a car registration plate at 20 metres – with glasses or contact lenses, if required.
Working – If your workplace is dust-free with no physical activity then you can return to work one week after surgery. If this is not the case then you should wait two weeks before returning to work. Please let us know if you require a doctor’s ‘fit’ note to give to your employer if you need to be off work longer than one week.
Child care – It’s OK for you to look after children immediately following cataract surgery, UNLESS you were given a sedative before surgery, in which case you should not look after children alone for at least 24 hours.
Glaucoma – If you have glaucoma, continue to take your glaucoma drops as normal, unless you have been told otherwise. Please use a new, unopened bottle following surgery and leave an interval of at least 5 minutes between the two different types of eye drops – it doesn’t matter in which order you put these in.
Lubricating eye drops – If you experience overly dry or gritty eyes it’s OK to use lubricating eye drops, which you can get from your optician or local chemist. Leave at least 5 minutes between using the two different types of drops.
Dry eye drops – If you’re experiencing redness, grittiness and/or soreness it may be helpful to use artificial ‘teardrops’, available from your local pharmacy, types of these include hypromellose, carbomer or polyvinyl alcohol. Leave at least 5 minutes between using the two different types of drops. If you already use artificial ‘tears’ medication please use a new, unopened bottle following surgery.
Make-up – You should NOT wear any eye make-up for 3 weeks.
Showers and baths – It’s OK to have showers and/or baths, keep your eyes closed when washing your face and remember not to rub your eye.
Hair washing – It’s OK to wash your hair after 24 hours of surgery, use a mild or baby shampoo, avoid getting soap in your eye and don’t rub the eye.
Cooking – If you’re feeling OK it’s fine for you to do everyday activities, like cooking, pretty much straightaway when you get home.
Reading/watching TV – It’s OK for you to read and watch television following surgery – your vision may be a little blurred for the first few days.
Sport and exercise – You should aim to keep any sports activities or exercise to a minimum for the two weeks following surgery – it’s OK to resume these after this time.
Swimming – Please do NOT swim until after you have attended your post-operative appointment and your eye has been checked. We recommend you wear goggles if swimming within one month of surgery.
Gardening – You should NOT garden until after your post-operative appointment.
Flying – It is OK to fly one week following surgery, but we would recommend you wait – if you can – until after your post-operative appointment.
Alcohol – It’s OK to drink alcohol following cataract surgery, UNLESS you had a sedative for surgery, in which case you should wait 24 hours before having a drink.
Bending – It’s OK to bend down for a short while eg while tying shoes, but prolonged periods of bending should be avoided.
Your post-op assessment will be booked at either your optician’s practice or a SpaMedica clinic:
The purpose of your post-op appointment is to check your eye health and test your vision following surgery. Several eye tests will be conducted, with your appointment lasting about 1.5 to 2 hours (which includes about 40 minutes to allow your pupils to dilate – see below).
Dilating the eyes causes blurred vision and sensitivity to light, meaning you won’t be able to drive; so it’s important to make sure you organise a lift or arrange transport to/from the hospital. SpaMedica provides free transport for some patients, based on your location and other criteria – if you’re struggling to find transport please speak to a member of our Referrals team to see if you qualify for free transport.
So what will happen at this appointment?
You’re all done and should be experiencing improved vision and colours you’re seeing should be back to normal.
Many patients describe their cataract surgery experience as a positive and life-changing experience; their vision is greatly improved, it’s helped with their confidence and independence, and, they’re once again enjoying vibrant colours that they can now see clearly.