• by Dr. Z Aleksic

Clarifying Your Cataract Conundrums

For this blog I decided to take Google by storm and search for the general public’s top cataract questions. I must, say, I was not surprised by these questions as they are the same as the ones that my patients tend to ask me. Without further adieu, let me get started on putting your mind at rest and solving any cataract conundrums that may have been puzzling you.


1. Is cataract surgery painful?


Cataract surgery is not a painful procedure. Most of my patients experience only a small amount of pressure on the eye when drops are being applied.


There are no needles or anything that is going to get close to your eye. You also do not need to worry about keeping your eye open the whole time. Your doctor will use a speculum, which is a small clamp, to keep the eye open. You will also have access to oxygen to prevent feeling claustrophobic.


You are not going to be under a general anaesthetic, but instead you will be under what we call a conscious sedation, where most of my patients fall asleep. You can listen to the music or you can listen to what your doctor is saying, but in my experience most patients tend to fall asleep. The doctor will be using an anaesthetic spray around the eye that will numb the area.


If it is a straightforward cataract surgery, the procedure only takes about 10-15 minutes.


2. Is cataract surgery covered by health insurance?


Yes, cataract surgery falls under what medical aids refer to as a ‘prescribed minimum benefit’ - therefore they must pay for it. Even if you only have a hospital plan they will still need to pay for it. The quotes will differ depending on the different treatment options that you chose.


We are going to provide you with quotes for your medical aid, as your medical aid will need to authorise this procedure. What we usually tell patients is that it is important to speak to the medical aid directly. You will need to give them the basic information needed for this authorization, such as your name, surname, medical aid number, ID number, hospital (Life Peninsula or West Coast Private Hospital), diagnosis code, doctor’s practice number, date, which eye is being operated on or whether it is both eyes.

We recommend that you speak to them directly to find out exactly how much they are going to cover. This is because we do not submit to medical aid on our side. We will ask you to pay us first, and then when you get your tax invoice the medical aid will reflect. They will be able to process it and pay the covered amount directly into your account. To get a rough idea of how much they pay, past experience shows that for a normal option of cataract surgery you should be paid back most of the money, depending on the IOL’s you chose.


3. Can cataract surgery go wrong?


Cataract surgery is considered one of the most successful surgical procedures in the medical world. Putting all the risk together, there is still less than a 5% chance of complication. To quote one, if you look at postoperative infection after surgery, in most respected facilities 1 in 3000 or less patients may get an infection.

That being said, even if there are no complications due to surgery, there is always a slight chance that the patient’s vision after surgery will not be 100% perfect. This can be due to residual optical error or possible changes in the retina due to age such as Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) or Diabetic Retinopathy, or other pathologies.


4. How is cataract surgery done?


Normally, the lens of your eye is clear, but cataracts cause your natural lens to become cloudy, which will then affect your vision. This procedure involves removing the lens from your eye. Usually the lens is then replaced with an artificial lens.


5. How much does cataract surgery cost?


We cannot give a standardised price because the cost of eye surgery differs from person to person. It depends on many factors and is determined after your tests are performed.


In general, the cost of cataract surgery depends on the type of procedure and intraocular lens you and your cataract surgeon decide is best for your needs. Please speak with our team or book a consultation to find out more.


6. Where is cataract surgery performed


We perform our cataract surgeries in a designated eye hospital with the most modern equipment available. The theatre staff are experienced and trained to work in an ophthalmic theatre specifically.


We do this type of surgery every second Tuesday afternoon at the Life Peninsula Eye Hospital in Claremont and in Vredenburg on selected Thursdays. Patients are able to choose when they would like to have it done. Depending on the different materials that we need to order, we can usually help patients within a week.


7. Will cataract surgery remove floaters


No. Floaters are located further back in the eye and not where cataract surgery takes place.