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Cataract surgery

Cataract removal surgery can reverse blurred vision caused by cataracts and eliminate your need for glasses

Optometrist performing a sight test for a patient to assess the need for cataract surgery
A cataract occurs when the lens of your eye, which is normally clear, becomes cloudy. The lens on the inside of your eye is a small transparent disc behind your iris. It helps you focus light, or an image, onto your retina, allowing you to see clearly.

Cataract surgery corrects the problem by replacing the cloudy lens with a clear one. It is a common and very effective surgery that restores full vision in most cases.

Private cataract surgery is a treatment option that falls under the medical specialism of ophthalmology. Ophthalmology is a branch of medicine and surgery that deals with the treatment of disorders of your eye. Ophthalmologists are specially trained doctors who help treat people with short-term and long-term eye conditions.

Most cataract surgery in the UK is performed using a method called phacoemulsification. This means ultrasound is used to break up the lens in your eye. This is how we perform most cataract removal procedures at Circle Health Group.

You don't have to live with cataracts. We have a large network of specialist ophthalmologist consultants who can help you manage and treat your vision problems.

Cataract removal surgery for one eye starts from £3,243* 

Our fixed-price packages include the cost of your surgery and all appropriate aftercare appointments. However, any pre-surgery diagnostic tests and your consultant’s outpatient appointment consultation fee are charged separately.

Our flexible payment options help you spread the cost of your payment across a time period that suits you. We offer fixed-term monthly payment plans over 10 months to five years with no deposit required. If you decide to pay over 10 months, you will pay interest-free. If you are paying for a longer period, you will pay 14.9% APR.

If you have private health insurance, cataract surgery will usually be covered by your provider. Speak to your insurer directly to find out.

*This is a guide price for patients who are paying for their own treatment. The actual cost of your treatment will be confirmed in writing at the time of booking.

You might need cataract removal surgery if you’re struggling with the following cataract symptoms:

  • Increased sensitivity to light or glare
  • Cloudy or blurred vision
  • Colours may look faded
  • Double vision
  • Circles of light around bright lights

In the initial stages of cataracts, you may have to change your glasses prescription regularly as your eye becomes progressively more shortsighted and your lens changes shape with the onset of cataract.

As the condition progresses and your symptoms get harder to live with, you might need a cataract operation.

There are several types of cataracts, which differ depending on where they form in the lens of your eye. The three most common types of cataracts are:

Nuclear sclerotic cataracts

This is the most common type of cataract. It develops in the middle of your lens (the nucleus) and spreads to the outer layers of your eyes. It can cause double vision and deteriorated sight, making everyday activities like reading difficult.

Cortical cataracts

This type of cataract develops on the outer layer of your lens. They may cause sensitivity to light and blurred vision.

Posterior subcapsular cataracts

This type of cataract develops near the back of your lens. Although they can be small, symptoms can be significant. This may also cause increased sensitivity to light and blurred vision.

All three forms of cataracts cause progressive vision loss, meaning you might not know you have cataracts when they first develop, but symptoms become more significant as time passes. You can get cataracts in one or both eyes, but cataracts cannot spread from one eye to the next.

Cataracts are not painful, no matter which type of cataracts you have. Neither do they make your eyes red, itchy, or irritated. However, as mentioned above, living with blurred vision can be debilitating and prevent you from doing the things you love.

There are several reasons why you might need cataract removal surgery, including:

Cataracts can affect your quality of life

Living with blurred vision can be understandably frustrating. It can interfere with simple things, like reading or exercising. Everyday activities like driving can also become a source of anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. A study published by the National Library of Medicine found that blurred vision has “a detectable and significant impact on functional status and well-being".1

In addition to this, relying on wearing glasses or contact lenses for clear vision can be inconvenient.

Cataracts can make it dangerous to drive

Blurred vision caused by cataracts can make it unsafe for you to drive, an activity that many people require to travel to work or just to go about their everyday activities. This is one of the reasons why it is important to have an eye exam with your optometrist or ophthalmologist if you suspect you are suffering from cataracts.

Cataracts can lead to permanent blindness

If left untreated, cataracts can becoming progressively worse and lead to permanent blindness.

Close-up of woman and equestrian helmet
Retired headteacher Marion Buchanan had cataract surgery at Ross Hall Hospital in Glasgow.

Marion is a devoted horse owner, and was shocked to realise that her eyesight was becoming too poor to look after her horses as she would like to.

Putting it down to old age, she spoke to her optometrist, who explained that she actually had cataracts in both eyes. Her vision was becoming so bad that it was almost too bad for her to drive safely.

"My husband has had a severe stroke, so he doesn't drive. My sister had a brain injury that means she cannot drive. So although I don't drive very much, I'm the one who takes them to the hospital appointments and does the shopping," explains Marion. "It was devastating."

Marion's optometrist explained that she could go private for cataract surgery and that the process should be a fast one. "It was quick and smoothly organised," says Marion, who was able to book appointment times that fit in around her lifestyle.

"And when I got to hospital, I found that everyone was treated exactly the same, and that actually, many of the people there were just like me. They had cataracts and they had decided to raid their savings, and spend a bit of money on getting themselves treated."

Marion had surgery on one eye within three weeks of her initial consultation, and four weeks later she had cataract surgery on her other eye. And she couldn't be happier with the results.

"Everything has gone really well... It was just so empowering,. I had gone from thinking, well, life as I know it has ended, I can't see... to these people saying, right, this is fine, just leave it to us and we can sort it. And they did."

Scroll down to the video to see Marion's full story.

In most people, cataracts are a natural symptom of ageing. According to The National Eye Institute, most cataracts are age-related. By age 80, most people in the UK either have cataracts or have had cataract removal surgery.2

However, the condition can also be caused by other factors, including:

  • Genetics (a family history of cataracts)
  • Regularly drinking excessive alcohol
  • Smoking
  • A diet lacking in essential vitamins
  • An eye injury
  • Taking steroid medication for a long time
  • Certain health conditions, such as diabetes

Your risk of developing cataracts increases as you age, but can also increase if:

  • You have spent a lot of time in the sun
  • You have had an eye injury, surgery or radiation treatment on your upper body
  • You have existing health problems, including diabetes or arthritis

You might be wondering what the process of cataract removal surgery involves.

Most cataract operations are performed under local anaesthetic, which means that you’ll be awake during the operation, but you won’t feel any pain or see any instruments moving towards your eye.

Most cataract surgery in the UK is performed by phacoemulsification. During this process, your ophthalmologist will make a small incision on the side of your cornea. They will then insert a small, specially designed probe into your eye. This will emit ultrasound that breaks up the lens of your eye into very small pieces, meaning it can be removed using a suction technique.

After your lens has been removed, your ophthalmologist will usually replace it with an artificial lens. You will know which type of lens you will have fitted before your surgery. The type of lens you have fitted will depend on your individual visual needs. For example, whether you are long-sighted or short-sighted.

We offer a range of different lens options, including:

Monofocal lenses

A monofocal intraocular lens aims to reduce the need to wear glasses for distance vision.

Multifocal lenses

A multifocal intraocular lens aims to reduce the dependence on wearing glasses for intermediate and near vision.

Toric lenses

A toric intraocular lens aims to correct astigmatism, as well as near-sightedness and far-sightedness. Astigmatism happens when your eye is slightly curved, meaning light is focused at more than one place in your eye. It can cause blurred vision and sensitivity to light.

Your ophthalmologist will ensure you have the right lens fitted for your visual needs. Before your surgery, you will have an assessment with your ophthalmologist to discuss the following:

  • Your lens preference depending on your visual needs
  • Your expected recovery timeline
  • The benefits of having surgery
  • Whether you will need glasses following surgery

This assessment is there to ensure you feel safe and informed throughout each step of your healthcare journey.

How long does the procedure take?

Cataract removal surgery is a straightforward procedure that typically takes 15 to 30 minutes in total. If you require cataract removal surgery in both eyes, your consultant will wait for one to three weeks before performing cataract removal surgery on your second eye

The incision made into your eye during surgery will heal on its own without stitches. A protective shield will usually be placed over your eye after surgery to accelerate your healing journey.

Remember, your healthcare team are here to answer any questions you have throughout each stage of your treatment journey. They will be able to keep you consistently informed about your procedure and how it is performed.

Although cataracts can be a debilitating condition to live with, they are a treatable condition. However, there are only two real options.

Eye glasses or contact lenses

This treatment option is particularly effective if your cataract is in its initial stages of development. Eye glasses or contact lenses can help treat cataracts in the short-term, helping improve your vision using glasses or contact lenses.

Your ophthalmologist will find the best prescription for your visual needs. This might change regularly when cataracts, which can become challenging to manage, leading most people to opt for surgery. 

Cataract eye surgery

You cannot reverse cataracts without having cataract removal surgery, which is the go-to treatment when your cataracts has developed into a long-term problem, causing severely blurred vision and reduced quality of life. There are no medicine or eye drops that have been proven to improve cataracts or prevent them from progressing. This makes surgery the only treatment that can eliminate the need for glasses or contact lenses entirely.3

Cataract removal surgery is a commonly performed surgery with high success rates. As Harvard Health states, “the success rate of cataract removal surgery is high, and the rate of vision-threatening complications is relatively low.”4

The day of your surgery

You should be able to return home the same day as your cataract surgery. You should also be able to eat and drink soon after surgery. Your consultant will provide you with a pad or a plastic eye shield to wear over your eye when you leave the hospital.

Getting home from hospital

You will not be able to drive yourself home from hospital, so before you come in for surgery, you will need to arrange a friend or family member to collect you afterwards.

When you get home

It may take a few days after surgery for your vision to return fully. To prevent any accidents at home, eliminate tripping hazards such as loose tiling or general mess before your surgery.

The incision made on your eye during the procedure will heal without stitches, so there is no need to follow any stops to heal stitching. You can usually remove your eye pad or plastic shield the day after surgery. Ask your consultant about this and any other cataract surgery aftercare queries you have.

You might experience some of the following side effects while recovering at home:

  • Eye watering
  • Blurred vision
  • Grittiness
  • Double vision
  • A red or bloodshot eye

If you experience any of these symptoms, please do not worry. They are normal and should improve within a few days.

Please do avoid rubbing your eyes after surgery. This is to prevent infection and help your eye heal.

Remember, your healthcare team are there to support you after surgery as well as during. They will be available to contact with any queries or if you need medical support. If you have an infection, they will be able to provide you with the right treatment, so that you can continue your recovery journey at home.

Your long-term recovery

Within six weeks, you should be fully recovered from cataract removal surgery and have clear sight again.

We answer some frequently asked questions about cataract removal surgery.

What is a cataract?

A cataract is when the lens of your eye, which is normally clear, becomes cloudy. The condition becomes progressively worse and can lead to permanent blindness if left untreated. 

What causes cataracts?

Age is the most common cause of cataracts. Other factors that can make you more likely to develop cataracts include:

  • Genetics (a family history of cataracts)
  • Regularly drinking excessive alcohol
  • Age
  • A diet lacking in essential vitamins
  • An eye injury
  • Taking steroid medication for a long time
  • Certain health conditions, such as diabetes

What is the first sign of cataracts?

The first and most common sign of cataracts is blurred vision. You may have blurred spots in your field of vision, or struggle to see clearly across your entire field of vision.

How long does cataract surgery take?

The procedure is a straightforward, standard operation that typically takes 15 to 30 minutes in total.

The dos and don'ts after cataract surgery


  • Use eyedrops, if prescribed by your consultant
  • Wear an eye shield for the recommended time after surgery
  • Contact your doctor if you think you could have infection


  • Rub your eyes soon after surgery
  • Wear eye makeup for at least four weeks
  • Drive until advised by your consultant

Complications can occur during any surgery. However, it is uncommon to have serious complications after cataracts surgery. The vast majority of patients have a marked improvement in their vision and quality of life after surgery.

Possible complications of cataract surgery include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Some loss of vision
  • A detached retina
  • In very rare cases, complete loss of vision3

Your surgeon will discuss these risks prior to surgery and you will be provided with written information about all of these.

When you choose to go private with Circle Health Group, you can expect:

  • Flexible appointment times and locations to fit your routine
  • The freedom to choose which hospital and consultant suit your needs
  • Personalised, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Comfortable and safe private facilities maintained by expert multidisciplinary teams
  • Support by the same compassionate clinical team from beginning to end
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to spread the cost of your care

If you would like to learn more about cataract surgery, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly on 0141 300 5009.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in April 2022. Next review due April 2025.

  1. Cataract surgery, NHS
  2. Cataract surgery, Mayo Clinic
  3. What to Expect From Cataract Surgery, WebMD
  4. Cataract surgery, Bupa
  5. Cataract Surgery, Cleveland Clinic

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Why Marion went private for cataracts surgery

Find out why Marion went private for her cataracts surgery and how it's given her a new lease of life.

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