Cataract surgery is the clouding of the natural lens in our eyes as we age. In Singapore, cataract surgery is one of the most common surgeries – almost everyone above the age of 60 years old will have cataracts. However, early onset of cataracts in your 30s and 40s is also possible if you have had eye injury or a retina eye surgery, overexposure to UV glare, diabetes or due to congenital conditions. 
While it is a fairly common condition, many of us Singaporeans don’t really know what a cataract is and how cataract surgery is actually done. In a study done by the Singapore Epidemiology of Eye Diseases, they found that almost 70% of the Singaporean participants with cataracts were unaware of the problem and thus untreated. Half of them were already bilaterally visually impaired by their cataracts.
It is likely that you know someone who has cataracts – be it a parent or family member – so it’s time to get acquainted with what cataracts are all about! Here we have compiled 21 frequently asked questions on cataract surgery in Singapore that you can learn about in under 5-min.
Also read: Ultimate Guide to Cataract Surgery in Singapore.
1. What are cataracts?
A cataract is the blurring of the eye lens, slowing turning opaque. Normally light enters the eye at the front, passes through a clear lens and reaches the retina so that we can see. If the lens is opaque and cloudy, light cannot pass through properly, resulting in blurred vision. 
2. What are the symptoms of cataracts?
Some cataract symptoms include misty or blurry vision, dim vision, sensitivity to glare, haloes and faded vision with loss of contrast.  The most common cataract symptom is the gradual blurry of vision even with the correct spectacle prescription lenses worn. These symptoms can vary for everyone depending on the severity of the cataract and eye condition. 
Having cataracts can affect the person’s ability to perform daily tasks. It is usually at this point when it starts interfering with vision that people notice that they actually have cataracts.
3. How can I diagnose if I have cataracts?
Although you may suspect you have cataracts if you experience the above-mentioned symptoms of cataract, you will still need to go for a detailed eye examination by an ophthalmologist to get a diagnosis. Your eyes will be dilated with eye drops and the eye doctor will conduct eye tests as well as a slit lamp examination to assess if there is a cataract present.
4. How come I can get cataracts in my late 30s to early 40s?
Cataracts is usually an age-related medical problem, but doctors speculate that people are getting cataracts at an earlier age today due to the prolonged use of smartphones, laptops and other electronic devices. Other risk factors include diabetes, overexposure to UV glare, hypertension, history of traumatic injury to the eye, prolonged use of steroidal medications, smoking, obesity and high myopia. 
5. Is there any way I can delay the onset of cataracts?
Ultraviolet rays are especially harmful to your eyes so it’ll be wise to wear UV-protected sunglasses whenever you are outdoors. It’s also a good idea to refrain from getting too much direct sun glare and exposure in general.
It is not scientifically proven yet but some studies have shown that eating foods high in antioxidants, Vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids can help keep cataracts at bay until you are in your old age. In particular, eat a healthy portion of fruits, dark leafy vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds.  Do note that these will not prevent cataracts, but rather help maintain good eye health to delay the onset of cataracts as much as possible.
6. How can I get my cataracts treated?
There are no eye drops or medication available that can treat cataracts to date; the only way to treat cataracts is by undergoing cataract surgery.
The idea of this is essentially a cataract removal surgery, where your cloudy lens is removed and replaced with a clear, artificial intraocular lens (IOL) implant.
7. How is cataract surgery done?
The gold standard for cataract surgery is to remove your cloudy lens via phacoemulsification and replace it with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL) implant.
The procedure can be done via either general anaesthesia or local anaesthesia (numbing eye drops). The ophthalmologist will make a small incision at the edge of the cornea and use an ultrasound device to break up the cataract and suck it out. The artificial lens will then be implanted into the eye and your eyesight will thus be restored. The whole process takes about 30 to 45 minutes and is done as an outpatient procedure. 
8. What are the types of cataract surgery in Singapore?
There are two main types of cataract surgery in Singapore: phacoemulsification with lens implant (see Q7) and laser-assisted cataract surgery.
Laser-assisted cataract surgery uses a Femtosecond laser (same laser used to cut a Lasik flap. Read more about LASIK surgery guide in Singapore here) to make the cut in the eye, instead of the surgeon making the incision by hand. It is used together with phacoemulsification.
9. Do I have to wait until my cataract is “ripe” or very severe before doing cataract surgery?
This is one of the most common myths of cataract sugery because it holds some truth in the past, where cataract surgery was done via a different technology altogether. However, with the current advanced phacoemulsification technology, you can have your cataracts removed as soon as it starts impeding vision and daily life.
In fact, the converse is now true: the longer you delay your cataract surgery, the denser the cataract will become and the more difficult it is to remove the cataract, thus increasing the risk of complications. So if you hear your parents or family members telling that old wives’ tale that they want to wait till it’s ripe, you now know better and can advise them otherwise and encourage them to get it removed if it affects their vision – even if the cataract is mild.
10. Are there any risks or side effects of cataract surgery?
In general, cataract surgery in Singapore is a very common procedure and is safe. Right after the surgery, you will feel slight soreness and discomfort in the eye. Side effects of cataract surgery are temporary and these include:
- Dryness of eye, which can last for one to four weeks. Eye drops will be prescribed after surgery.
- Swelling and tiredness of the eye, for one to two weeks.
- Floaters or shadows cast on the retina, for one to two weeks.
- Light sensitivity, for one to two weeks.
It’s important to get plenty of rest and sleep for your eyes to repair to speed up the recovery of your cells. Also take note to avoid prolonged hours of near work to prevent eye strain for up to a month post-op.
11. What are the possible complications during my cataract surgery itself?
Intra-operation complications are rare for cataract surgery in Singapore but they include inflammation, swelling, infection, bleeding and retinal detachment. These complications are usually treatable.
It is also possible that the lens capsule holding your IOL may become cloudy in future, known as Posterior Capsule Opacity. This can be treated easily with a simple laser procedure called a YAG laser treatment.
12. What are the lens used and how do I choose the right lens implants for me?
In general, there are monofocal or multifocal lens options available. Monofocal lenses correct distance vision (i.e. myopia) only, which means that you may still need to wear reading glasses if you have presbyopia as well. Multifocal lenses aim to correct both distance and reading vision so that you can be spectacle-free. If you have high astigmatism, you may also want to consider toric lenses to correct some of your astigmatism.
It depends on the individual’s eye condition, your refractive error (myopia, presbyopia, hyperopia, or a combination). Pro tip: you can request for a lens trial to try it out for yourself prior to the surgery.
13. Do I still need to wear glasses after my cataract surgery?
Generally, you will not need to wear any glasses for distance vision any longer as your IOL would have taken into account your refractive error (short or long sightedness) if any.
It all depends on your refractive errors and your lens implants. For example, you may still need reading glasses if you have presbyopia and opted for the monofocal lenses. It is also possible that you need to wear glasses if you have very severe astigmatism that was not accounted for in your lens implants.
14. Can my cataract regrow again?
No, your cataract cannot regrow again once it is removed.
15. What do I need to prepare before my cataract surgery?
You will first have to consult your eye doctor and undergo eye examinations to see whether you are a good fit for cataract surgery. You will also need to decide, together with your eye surgeon, which lens implant is best for you.
Once you are deemed fit for cataract surgery and the surgery date is set, you will need to fast for 12 hours before the surgery and apply a prescribed eye drop to prep your eyes for surgery and reduce potential infection risk. You will also need to stop wearing contact lenses if any for 3 to 14 days prior to the procedure.
On the day of your cataract surgery, do ask someone to accompany you to the hospital and back home since it is an outpatient procedure which only takes about 30 to 45 minutes. Dress warmly and comfortably as the operation room tends to be cold and do not wear makeup or perfumes as they may interfere with the surgery.
16. Is cataract surgery painful?
No pain will be felt as anaesthetic eye drops will be applied to your eyes. You can also opt to be unconscious, under general anaesthesia.
17. How long does it take to recover from cataract surgery?
You will see an improvement in vision by the next day. The soreness and discomfort post-surgery usually will go away within a few days. Good and stable vision can be achieved usually by the first one to two weeks of your cataract surgery .
18. How can I take care of my eyes after cataract surgery?
Taking care of your eyes after surgery is critical for your recovery process. Do check with your ophthalmologist and nurses if you feel that you are unclear with post-op care. They should brief you thoroughly.
Here are some of the Dos and Don’ts  after cataract surgery:
- Apply the prescribed eye drops
- Wear sunglasses whenever you are outdoors (up to 1 monthh post-surgery)
- Take frequent breaks when you are doing near vision work
- Avoid splashing water into the eye when you bathe or wash your face
- Keep your eyes clean to prevent infections
- Get plenty of sleep to speed up recovery
- Drive right after the surgery (you can resume driving the next day)
- Rub your eyes, look downwards or attempt any head or handstands, you want to make sure that freshly applied lens stay in your eye!
- Apply make-up, keep the eyes clean
- Wear contact lenses, for up to 1 month
- Exercise or do sports, for up to 1 month
- Go to dirty or dusty places
19. When can I go back to work after cataract surgery?
You will usually be given up to five days of MC. As long as you feel fine and your vision is clear, you can go back to the office to work as soon as the very next day.
However, if your work requires strenuous activities such as heavy lifting or dusty places like construction sites, you may want to take a few weeks off to rest. Avoid putting pressure on your eyes as this will affect your recovery process.
20. How much does cataract surgery cost in Singapore?
According to MOH, the cost of cataract surgery in Singapore ranges from $1,200 to $1,500 per eye under the subsidised route and $4,400 to $5,400 per eye under the unsubsidised route in a public hospital.
For private hospitals and private medical practices, cataract surgery costs $5,500 to $8,500 per eye.
21. Does my Medishield or insurance cover the cost of cataract surgery?
Cataract surgery is covered by Medishield at most clinics. You may claim up to $2,450 per eye for your cataract operation. For personal insurance, it depends on your insurance coverage – you may be able to claim the full amount of your cataract operation. Check with the eye clinic and also your insurance provider before booking your surgery so that you know what to expect for the total bill of your cataract surgery.
There you have it – the full list of 21 FAQs on cataract surgery in Singapore! To get treatment quotes from eye surgeons specialising in cataract surgery, simply fill up the contact form below and we’ll help you get connected.
 Southwestern Eye Centre (2019). Early Onset Cataracts: Signs, Causes, Treatment of Premature Cataracts. Retrieved from https://www.sweye.com/blog/cataracts/early-onset-cataracts-signs-causes-treatment/
 Chua, J., Lim, B., Fenwick, E. K., Gan, A. T., Tan, A. G., Lamoureux, E., Mitchell, P., Wang, J. J., Wong, T. Y., & Cheng, C. Y. (2017). Prevalence, Risk Factors, and Impact of Undiagnosed Visually Significant Cataract: The Singapore Epidemiology of Eye Diseases Study. PloS one, 12(1), e0170804. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0170804
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 Haddrill, M. 8 ways to minimize cataract surgery recovery time, from https://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/cataract-surgery-recovery.htm
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