Fact: We will all develop cataracts at some point in our lives as we age. Cataract is an eye disease where the eye’s natural clear lens become cloudy due to ageing. A person who has cataracts will have obvious tell-tale signs such as blurry, darkening or shadowy vision.
Although some may develop early cataracts in their 40s, people usually develop cataracts after they hit their 50s. In other words, cataracts are part and parcel of our ageing process.
Currently, there are no medications available to prevent or treat cataract formation and surgery is the only way possible to remove a cataract, thereby helping the patient regain clear vision once again.
“How do I know if I have a cataract?”
If you are above the age of 40 and experience symptoms such as blurry or cloudy vision, double vision or dimming vision, it is likely that you have a cataract. The cataract formation can range from mild to severe. If you experience the symptoms as stated here, it will be best if you consult an eye doctor and undergo a detailed eye examination to determine if you really have a cataract.
“How much does a cataract eye examination cost in Singapore?”
In general, going to see an eye doctor in Singapore for an eye consultation and cataract eye examination can cost between a range of $100 to $500, excluding GST. This cost comprises the doctor’s consult fees (i.e. consultation) and eye test fees (charged per eye test). Some of the eye tests you need to undergo to check for cataract are tonometry (eye pressure test), biometry (measurement of cataract lens implant power) and OCT (health of retinal and optic nerve test).
Let us look at the breakdown in cost between the doctor’s consultation and eye test fees:
|Public Hospitals – Subsidised Rates||Public Hospitals – Private Rates||Private Clinics|
|Eye Consultation||$37 (Singapore Citizen)|
$56 (Singapore PR)
|$100 - $300||$100 - $300|
|$10 - $30||$30 - $50||$30 - $50|
(Cataract lens implant power)
|$30 - $50||$100||$100 - $250|
(Health of retinal and optic nerve test)
|$30 - $50||$80 - $100||$100 - $250|
These are the common eye tests required to test whether you have a cataract.
Many Singaporeans do not know this: In Singapore, the cost of seeing an eye specialist in the private sector is almost on par with the private rates at public hospitals. Hence, if you opt for the private, unsubsidized route at public hospitals (meaning you would like to namepick your eye surgeon at the hospital), you may as well consider going to see an eye specialist in the private sector as the rates are almost the same.
“Should I go see an eye doctor in a public hospital or private clinic?”
If cost is a concern, you may want to consider going to a public hospital under the subsidized route. However, you need to bear in mind that public hospitals are staffed by doctors with a wide range of experience: from a medical officer who is still in training, registrar, consultant to senior consultant. You will also not be able to choose your eye surgeon as the hospital will assign one to you. The eye doctor you see at your consultations, surgery and follow up visits may also be different.
If you opt to see an eye specialist in the private sector, you will have a choice as to which doctor you want operating on your eyes and also see the same doctor for all your follow up visits thereafter.
“How is cataract surgery in Singapore done?”
Your eye surgeon will determine if you have a cataract during the eye examination. He will also advise you as to whether you should proceed with the cataract operation and the appropriate choice of artificial lens to be implanted into your eyes.
Today, cataract surgery is done via small incision phacoemulsification under numbing eye drops anesthesia. In general, cataract surgery in Singapore is a day surgery as it takes only 20 to 30 minutes.
First, a small incision that is less than 3mm is cut at the side of your cornea. Next, the surgeon will make a round opening (capsultotomy) in the front of the eyes either manually or using a laser. The surgeon then inserts 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 cataract lens which has turned cloudy, thereby allowing you to see clearly again.
“So how much does a cataract surgery cost in Singapore?”
For a subsidized cataract surgery at public hospitals in Singapore, it will cost you about $800 to $1,200 per eye. If you take the private route at public hospitals, cataract surgery will cost you about $4,000 to $6,000 per eye.
The private rates at hospitals are rather similar to private clinics and private hospital cataract price packages which also ranges from $4,000 to $8,000 per eye.
“Will the cost of my cataract surgery be covered with Insurance or Medisave?”
In general, yes, you can use your Medisave or insurance to cover the cost of your cataract surgery in Singapore.
Cataract surgery is actually one of the most common surgeries in Singapore and that is why all private health insurance policies provide coverage for cataract surgery. Depending on your insurance policy, you may be able to claim up to the full amount of your cataract surgery with a private clinic.
If you do not have private insurance, fret not as all Singapore citizens and PRs are able to cover a part of the cost of cataract surgery with Medisave. This is because the Ministry of Health (MOH) deems cataract surgery a treatment for a medical condition. You are able to claim up to $2,150 off the cost of your cataract surgery for both public hospitals and private clinics in Singapore. You may also be able to claim an additional amount with MediShield, so do check with your eye clinic.
“What accounts for the difference in cataract surgery costs in Singapore?”
Today, cataract surgery is usually a day surgery. The cost of cataract surgery for one eye in Singapore comprises of:
1. Eye surgeon fees
This ranges from $2,000 to $4,000.
2. Facility fees
The facility fees range from $1,500 to $3,000 and this covers the use of the operating room, the assisting nurses, surgical equipment and all the surgical disposables used. Should complications occur, more surgical disposables will be used, and thus the facility fees will be higher as a result.
3. Anesthetist fees
This fee is optional and is applicable only if you opt for general anaesthesia to be fully asleep and unaware during the procedure. If you would like to opt for GA, the anesthetist fee ranges from $500 to $2,000.
4. Lens implant fees
This fee ranges from $500 to $2,000, depending on the type of lens implant used. For example, single vision lens are less costly while multifocal lens are more pricey.
“How do I choose a good eye surgeon for my cataract surgery in Singapore?”
It’s always ideal to choose an eye surgeon who you trust and are comfortable with. If you do not already have a regular eye doctor that you go to, consider an eye surgeon who has more than ten years of experience. You know that you’re in safer hands when your surgeon has done thousands of cataract operations. Experienced eye surgeons will be able to finish the operation faster, be much better equipped to handle unexpected complications during surgery such as capsule rupture, etc.
Insider tip: get recommendations from healthcare professionals working in the industry such as nurses or any staff. These are the best people to talk to if you would like to find out the surgeon’s skills. These people usually have insider knowledge of how skilled the surgeon is.
If you do not know anyone in the healthcare industry, don’t worry – you can make full use of this portal, set up by professionals in the healthcare industry, to do your research on which doctor to opt for. Get in touch with a handful of experienced eye surgeons in Singapore here.
Jolene lives for avo toasts, yoga and is a little more OCD than she cares to admit. She never fails to start her day with morning coffee and is very partial to flat whites. She is obsessed with interiors and homeware, and is currently taking her RYT 200h yoga teacher training course as an aspiring ashtangi.