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Guide to Cataract surgery in Singapore: It’s inevitable and here’s what you need to know

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Cataract surgery is something that everyone (yes, everyone!) has to undergo at a certain point in our lives as part of our ageing process. Because of that, cataract is undoubtedly one of the most common surgeries performed.

cataracts are the clouding of natural lens of the eyes, most of the time due to aging

As we age, our natural lens in the eye become cloudy which will result in blurry vision. In general, people develop cataracts in their late 50s to 70s. However, it is possible to suffer from early cataracts if you have had eye trauma or overexposure of UV light from the sun. You are also very likely to get cataracts at an early age if you have undergone eye surgery such as Implantable Collamer Lens (ICL)

Also: Read here to find out more about ICL!

“How do I know if I have cataracts?”

To determine if you indeed have cataracts, you will need to see an ophthalmologist for a detailed eye examination.

example of 4 signs of cataracts, blurry hazy vision, double vision, glares and halos, object appears yellowish

Here’s a list of the common symptoms you may be experiencing if you have cataracts:

  • Blurry or hazy vision
  • Shadowy vision
  • Double vision
  • Objects may take on a yellowish or brownish tint in colour or appear a bit faded

Do note that early stages of cataracts have no symptoms. When you feel that there’s something wrong with your eyes or vision, it could also be due to conditions such as glaucoma, floaters or more severe problems like retinal tears. That’s why your regular eye check-ups with your eye doctor are so important!

“How does my eye doctor determine if I have a cataract during my eye appointment?”

There are usually one to two parts to a cataract eye check-up:

1. Slit Lamp Test

The first of which is the slit lamp test. The slit lamp equipment shines a light into your eyes while your eye doctor examines your eyes’ natural lenses and then deduce whether you have a cataract and also grade the severity of the cataract. This is subjective to the eye doctor’s experience as it relies solely on the doctor’s skills and judgement.

2. Cataract Photography (optional)

While you are at slit lamp, it is possible to take a photograph of your lens so that the density and colour of the cataract can be recorded. This is made possible if the clinic has invested in the equipment to carry out cataract photography and this feature also drives up the clinic’s cost substantially.

Nevertheless, do note that cataract photography is something that is optional and not a requirement to diagnose a cataract.

“The doctor says I have a cataract. Do I really need to go for cataract surgery?”

To date, there is no medication or eye drop that can treat cataracts. Once a cataract is formed, there is no way to reverse it and thus, the only effective way to remove it is by cataract surgery.

The good news is cataracts tend to progress slowly so it is possible to delay surgery for now. However, if your vision is poor and blurry to the extent where it is a hindrance to your life, then you may want to consider just biting the bullet and going for cataract surgery to regain precious clear vision once again.

“How much does cataract surgery cost in Singapore?”

In general, a detailed eye examination and consultation for cataracts with an eye specialist in Singapore will cost between $300 to $800.

Eye Consultation $100 to $300
Tonometry (Eye Pressure Test) $30 to $50
Biometry (Cataract Lens Implant Power Test) $100 to $200
OCT (Health of Retina and Optic Nerve Test) $100 to $200

For cataract surgery in Singapore itself, the cost ranges from $3,500 to $7,000 for one eye. This cost comprises surgeon fees, facility fees which covers the use of the operating room, assisting nurses, surgical equipment and disposables used as well as the cost of the lens implant, which varies according to the type of lens used.

Find more about the detailed breakdown on the cost of cataract surgery in Singapore.

“Can I use Medisave or Insurance to pay for my cataract operation in Singapore?”

In general, yes. Cataract surgery in Singapore is Medisave claimable at most clinics. You can actually claim up to $2,450 per eye for your cataract operation.

For insurance claims, you may be able to claim up to the full amount of your cataract operation depending on your insurance policy coverage. Do check with your insurance provider prior to booking your cataract surgery in Singapore.

“What can I expect for my cataract operation in Singapore?”

In Singapore, cataract surgery is a very common surgery and it takes 20 to 30 minutes for both eyes with a skilled surgeon. It is a day surgery so there is no need to be warded in the clinic or hospital.

You may opt to do it under local anaesthesia (numbing eye drops) or general anaesthesia. If you opt for the latter, you will be fully unconscious during the surgery and this option will also cost more. Most people do cataract surgery under local anaesthesia.

It is also required that you fast for about 6 hours prior to your procedure. Your surgeon may also recommend that you instil dilating eye drops before leaving home for surgery. This helps to dilate or enlarge your pupil so that your surgeon can perform surgery. The dilating eye drops will affect your near vision, i.e. text on your mobile phone can become blurry, and you should not drive to your surgery appointment.

During your eye operation itself, just follow the instructions of your eye surgeon and try to make yourself comfortable and relaxed. The procedure itself is painless as numbing eye drops have been applied.

After the surgery, you will rest in a recovery area where the nurses will check on your general condition, including your blood pressure. Typically, you will wear an eye shield to protect your operated eye for a day.

“How is cataract surgery done?”

4 steps of cataract surgery

Today, removing a cataract is done via a procedure called phacoemulsification (also known as phaco in short). The procedure uses ultrasonic energy to remove the cataract via suction (think of it like a vacuum).

First, a small (less than 3mm) incision is made at the side of your cornea. Then, a round opening (capsulotomy) is made in the front of the eyes manually or using a laser. The surgeon will then insert a small hollow blunt needle to emulsify the cataract using ultrasonic energy to suck the cataract out.

The surgeon then places the artificial lens in the empty lens capsule to replace your cloudy lens, thus helping you see clearly again.

“What should I take note of post-op?”

In general, you will need to apply antibiotic and steroidal eye drops after your surgery for several weeks. There is no dietary restrictions.

The recovery period is typically three to four weeks and during this time, do:

  • Be gentle on your eyes, i.e. do not rub your eyes
  • Put on eye shield while sleeping to avoid rubbing your eyes
  • Keep your eyes clean, i.e. don’t wear eye make-up and don’t splash water into them
  • Wear UV-protected sunglasses when you are exposed to the sun
  • Avoid carrying young children who may accidentally poke your eye
  • Visit your eye doctor for your follow up reviews

After one month, you may resume exercise and sporting activities.

“How do I choose the best doctor in Singapore to do my cataract surgery?”

It’s always good to go with an eye surgeon who comes highly recommended by a trusted friend or loved one. In particular, if they have had cataract surgery done themselves, they would be in a good position to recommend their eye surgeon to you.

However, if you do not have any trustworthy doctor recommendations, consider an eye surgeon who:

  • Has more than 10 years of experience and expertise in the field of ophthalmology. You know you are in safe hands when your surgeon has performed thousands of cataract surgeries. Experienced surgeons will be able to complete the surgery faster and be better equipped to handle unexpected complications during surgery, such as capsule rupture etc.
  • You trust and feel comfortable with. It’s good to trust your surgeon’s skills and have a peace of mind knowing that your surgeon will be able to perform a safe and successful surgery for you. You should also feel comfortable enough to ask all the questions you may have.
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