Cataract surgery corrects cloudy vision by replacing your natural lens with an artificial one, and treatment has a high success rate.
Cataracts affect 50% of people over 75, and this is the most common operation performed in the UK – around one every two minutes. This type of surgery takes place under local anaesthetic, and recovery is quick.
But what does cataract surgery really cost? What payment options work best for you? And do you need cataract surgery?
Our no-nonsense guide to cataract surgery costs, clinics and treatment includes:
1. Cataract Surgery Cost
Cataract surgery costs between £1,195 and £7,500 per eye, including the consultation, surgery, and aftercare. The price depends on the type of lens implant you choose, the technology used during surgery, and the experience of the surgeon.
The cost comparison table below shows you how much should expect to pay for cataract surgery at some of the UK’s best places for eye surgery. On average, you can expect to pay £3,610 per eye, and high street clinics such as Optical Express are cheaper than eye hospitals like Moorfields Private.
Cost of cataract surgery in the UK:
|Clinic||Cataract Monofocal RLE|
|Cataract Multifocal RLE
|Advanced Vision Care||£2,950||£3,650|
|Centre for Sight||£2,975 - £3,575||£3,950 - £4,250|
|Moorfields Private Clinic||£3,825||£4,430|
|Optical Express||From £1,995||From £3,195|
|Optimax||From £2,495||From £2,995|
The small print:
- The quotes from Optical Express and Optimax are the starting prices, which tend to work for to patients who have mild cataracts and a low prescription – you may end up paying a tad more.
- Moorfields Private surgeons set their own prices – the quotes above are an average for this clinic.
- London Vision Clinic, Optical Express, Optimax and Ultralase all offer free consultations – the cost is between £200 and £295 to talk to a cataract surgeon at all the other clinics.
- Always check in your initial consultation what is included in the price. You can expect the cataract surgery quote to cover the full cost of surgery (including the anesthetist fee), aftercare, eye drops, and a 24-hour emergency helpline, but the recommended annual check-ups and will be on you.
Want a more accurate quote? Get a tailored quote from a top-rated eye clinic near you by answering three questions on our price-finder tool at the top of the page.
Why is cataract surgery so expensive?
The cost of cataract surgery will vary between clinics based on their location, the experience of the surgeon, and the technology used. Here’s why:
- Location: Clinics situated in busy cities where there is more competition often offer lower, more competitive prices.
- Expertise of the surgeon: Every laser eye surgeon in the UK must be registered with the General Medical Council (GMC) in order to practice. The more experienced surgeons will also be certified by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, meaning they can charge a higher fee.
- Technology: The newer the technology used by the clinic, the more they can charge.
To find out more about the factors which can affect the cost of cataract surgery, visit our eye surgery pricing page.
2. Intraocular Lens Cost
Intraocular lenses (IOLs) cost between £1,995 and £7,500, and the type used in your cataract surgery will determine the price. Multifocal lenses cost between £2,995 and £7,500 per eye, and monofocal lenses average between £1,995 and £6,500.
Multifocal lenses are more expensive because they free you from glasses by allowing you to focus at more than one distance. Otherwise, if you don’t mind sticking with spectacles for close reading, monofocal lenses are a cheap alternative.
Break-down of the costs for different lenses:
|Type Of IOL||Price Per Eye||Treatment|
|Monofocal||£1,995 - £6,500||Either short or far-sightedness|
|Multifocal||£2,995 - £7,500||Both short and far-sightedness|
|Accommodating||£2,995 - £6,500||Far-sightedness|
|Toric||£3,950 - £4,250||Astigmatism|
Intraocular Lens Types Explained
There are four main types of intraocular lenses (IOLs) used in cataract surgery to replace the natural cloudy lens. The type of IOL you receive will depend on the type of refractive error you have, whether that’s nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia) or blurry vision (astigmatism).
- Monofocal: This standard single focus lens allows you to see clearly at just one set distance – either near, far or intermediate distance. These lenses are often used for far distance vision, and would require you to wear glasses for near distance tasks such as reading.
- Multifocal: These lenses correct both long and short sighted vision issues by allowing you to focus at varying distances, so you’re free from glasses.
- Accommodating: These lenses allow you to see clearly at various distances but unlike multifocal lenses, you will still need glasses for any close tasks like writing.
- Toric: These lenses are used to correct moderate to severe astigmatism, and provide exceptional focusing power in just one area of the lens. Like with monofocal and accommodating lenses, they require you to wear glasses for near distance vision.
3. Can I Get Cataract Surgery On Finance?
With pay monthly financing, cataract surgery can cost you between £28.40 and £392 a month, depending on how long you would like to pay it back. Deposits cost around £500, and most clinics offer interest free financing for the first year.
Customers can typically make monthly repayments for anything from 10 months to three years, and some clinics will charge between 5% and 10% interest if you require longer than one year. Spreading the cost of cataract surgery is one way to make it more affordable, although once you start tapping interest on, you’ll end up paying more in total.
Here are the finance packages offered at the UK’s top eye surgery clinics, including the and longest and shortest payback periods:
|Clinic||Deposit||Shortest Payback Period|
(cost per month)
|Longest Payback Period
(cost per month)
|Advanced Vision Care||£1,250||18 months: |
£94.44 (0% APR)
£70.83 (0% APR)
|Centre for Sight||£720 - £1,610||12 months: |
From £220 (0% APR)
From £94 (0% APR)
|Focus Clinic||£500||18 months: |
£270.83 (0% APR)
£131 (11.5% APR)
|London Vision Clinic||£500||12 months: |
£392 (0% APR)
£131 (0% APR)
|Optegra||£0 - £360||12 months: |
£207.91 (0% APR)
£62.66 (9.9% APR)
|Optical Express||£500||10 months: |
£149.50 (0% APR)
£28.40 (11.5% APR)
|Optimax||£500||12 months: |
From £172.80 (0% APR)
From £51.49 (11.5% APR)
|Ultralase||£500||12 months: |
£166.25 (0% APR)
£41.56 (0% APR)
But be careful. When considering pay monthly options for your cataract surgery, remember:
- Initial deposits are usually around 10% of the overall cost of surgery, so you will need to make sure you have enough money to pay this.
- The fixed interest rate on monthly instalments typically increases the longer the payback period, meaning the total amount you pay the clinic will be more for longer financial agreements than shorter ones.
- It is important to keep up with your payments. Paying for things on finance can affect your credit score if payments are late or missed, which can make it difficult for you to enter into financial agreements in the future.
- Read the terms and conditions of your finance package carefully and make sure you understand them fully.
- Your monthly quote will vary depending on whether you choose monofocal or multifocal cataract lenses.
So how much will cataract surgery cost me? The best way to work out what price you’re dealing with is to get a tailored quote from one of the best reviewed eye clinics near you. To start this journey, just answer three quick questions about you on our price-finder tool at the top of the page.
4. Can I Get Cataract Surgery On The NHS?
The good news is you can get cataract surgery on the NHS, but only if your cataracts are severely affecting your quality of life. Are you really struggling to carry out everyday tasks such as driving and reading? If so, there is hope.
If not, your cataracts are not deemed serious enough to undergo surgery on the NHS, and you will need to pay for the surgery yourself at a private clinic. Though with waiting lists of up to 15 months on the NHS, perhaps that reality for most people is a little easier to swallow.
Remember, cataract surgery is a specific type of refractive lens exchange (RLE). Cataract surgery corrects cloudy lenses, not just farsightedness, which the NHS does not treat using surgery, since glasses and contact lenses also work.
5. Is Cataract Surgery Covered by Medical Insurance?
Most private insurance providers will cover the cost of medically necessary cataract surgery. Medical eye conditions that cannot be treated with glasses or contact lenses (such as diabetic retinopathy) are eligible, and the amount you can claim will depend on your policy coverage.
Does Bupa pay for cataract surgery?
Bupa covers the full cost of standard cataract surgery as long as you have their Ultimate Health Insurance plan. If you are eligible for the procedure, Bupa will reimburse the cost of the initial consultation, but the policy does not cover femtosecond laser surgery.
What costs will be taken care of?
With insurance, most people end up getting free monofocal lenses, but need to pay the difference if they go for the more expensive multifocal lenses, or wavefront technology. Insurance policies usually cover the cost of treatment, the lens implant, and the initial consultation.
In some cases, you may need additional cover or a pre-authorisation form from your insurance provider, and you’ll be billed for each aspect of the surgery separately. As with the NHS, private insurance won’t pay for laser refractive surgery (treating clear lenses rather than cataracts).
Which insurers cover the costs of cataract surgery?
Want to find out if you’re covered? Check with your insurer to see what your policy covers, and talk to your chosen clinic about which health insurance companies they partner with. Here is just a handful of the many medical insurers that will foot the bill for cataract surgery:
- Allianz Worldwide Healthcare
- AVIVA Health UK Ltd
- AXA PPP
- CIGNA Life Healthcare
- Medical & General
- PMI Health Group
- Simply Health
- Standard Life Healthcare Ltd
6. Cost of Cataract Surgery Abroad
With cataract surgery costing on average £3,610 in the UK and an NHS waiting list of a year, many people look abroad for cheaper cataract treatment.
The top destinations are India, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong. But when you tally up the total cost of travel, accommodation, consultation, surgery fees, follow ups, medications, and aftercare, how much are you still saving?
According to a recent report from the British Journal of Ophthalmology (BJO), these are the costs for having cataract surgery abroad.
Cost of cataract surgery around the world:
|Country||Total Cost for One Eye||Total Cost for Both Eyes|
7. Cataract Treatment Explained
Phacoemulsification is the most common type of cataract surgery performed. The eye’s cloudy internal lens is emulsified, so it can be safely removed using ultrasonic energy, and replaced with an artificial lens.
Here are the latest NICE guidelines on what to expect from cataract surgery:
- An ophthalmologist will take measurements of your eyes to assess the type of intraocular lens (IOL) that will be placed into your eye.
- You should arrange for someone to pick you up following the procedure, as driving after cataract surgery is not permitted.
- The surgery typically takes between 30 and 45 minutes to complete.
- If both your eyes are affected by cataracts, they will be operated on separately around 6 to 12 weeks apart. This will give the first eye to be treated time to heal and your vision to stabilise.
- The operation will be performed under local anaesthetic, either as eye drops, or via an injection in the tissue around the eye.
- A small incision will be created in the cornea.
- A tool is inserted into your eye through the incision which breaks up your cloudy lens into small fragments using ultrasound. These fragments are then liquified and extracted from your eye.
- The synthetic lens is then inserted into your eye through the incision and is positioned where the old lens sat.
- The small incision is left to naturally heal. If a larger incision had to be made, it will be closed with absorbable sutures.
Cataract Surgery Aftercare
- You will be able to go home a few hours after your surgery.
- You should notice an almost immediate improvement to your eyesight.
- Your surgeon may suggest wearing a patch for a few days to protect your eye.
- You may experience mild pain in the eye after cataract surgery. If so, over the counter painkillers will be recommended.
- You will need to administer antibiotic eye drops into your treated eye for four weeks after the surgery.
- You should be able to resume normal activities within a couple of days of undergoing the surgery, however a week off work is recommended.
Is There Anything I Should Avoid After Surgery?
There are a few things you should avoid after surgery in order to ensure the best possible recovery. The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) recommends:
- Avoid touching your eyes or getting sweat, dust or smoke in them.
- Avoid exhausting activity, such a lifting weights.
- Avoid swimming for two to four weeks.
- Avoid getting shampoo or soapy water in your eyes.
- Avoid wearing eye makeup such as mascara for a week.
- Avoid too much computer work.
8. Cataract Surgery Complications
All surgery carries risks, but cataract surgery is a very safe procedure, and serious complications are rare. It is normal to experience mild pain or itchiness in your eye, blurred vision and a mild headache for a few days following surgery.
However, if you experience any of the following symptoms after cataract surgery, you should consult your surgeon immediately:
- Dislocated IOL: this can happen if the new lens moves out of position ever so slightly. A short procedure as an outpatient should rectify this.
- Inflammation of the eye or infection: antibiotic eye drops can be used to treat this, and any inflammation or infection if diagnosed early shouldn’t cause any real problems.
- Retinal detachment: small rips in the retina can lead to retinal detachment. If patients experience light flashes and floaters, this could be the cause. Treatment is surgical, and again, if diagnosed early, shouldn’t cause any long term issues.
- Increased pressure in the eye (intraocular pressure): this is fairly common, but naturally treated – symptoms should subside over time. If this is not the case, then medication may need to be prescribed.
- Posterior capsular opacification (PCO): in a small number of patients, the capsule which holds the IOL in place thickens and becomes cloudy, causing your vision to become blurred. This can be easily treated using YAG laser capsulotomy, in which a laser is used to make a small incision in your eye’s membrane to enable light to pass through your lens, restoring your vision.
9. Am I Ready for Cataract Surgery?
You may not initially notice any symptoms of cataracts since they develop slowly over time, but the most common signs of the disease are blurred or misty vision, and you may develop small white patches where eyesight is less clear. The main symptoms listed on the RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) include:
- Difficulty seeing clearly in dim or bright lights
- Bright lights with glare around them are hard to look at
- Halos around bright lights, such as street lights or vehicle headlights
- Everything has a brown or yellow hue
- Colours appear faded or dull
- Double vision (seeing two images of one object)
- Your contact lenses or glasses have become less effective at allowing you to see clearly
Here Professor David Gartry, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital, discusses what you should do if you think you have symptoms of cataracts.
How Are Cataracts Treated?
Cataracts are treated through surgery. This involves removing of the eye’s natural lens, and replacing it with an artificial silicone or acrylic one, known as an intraocular lens (IOL). Because IOLs are made of plastic, cataracts cannot form on them. IOLs are permanent and can remain in your eye for a lifetime without needing to be removed.
The three most common types of cataract surgery using lens replacement are:
- Phacoemulsification cataract surgery: a small incision on the cornea is made under local anaesthetic. An ultrasonic tool is then used to break up the cloudy lens which is removed using suction. An IOL is then inserted behind the iris to replace the lens. The incision on the cornea will be left to heal on its own.
- Extracapsular cataract surgery: this is used when patients have cataracts that are so advanced that breaking them up using ultrasound is not possible. Instead, a larger incision is made on the cornea and the whole lens is removed in one go. Like with phacoemulsification surgery, the IOL is then inserted behind the iris. Absorbable sutures will be used to close the incision due to its large size.
- Intracapsular cataract surgery: very occasionally it is necessary to remove the capsule that holds the lens in place in addition to the lens itself. This procedure is only used where there is significant damage to the eye and it requires a bigger incision to be made on the cornea. In this instance, the IOL is positioned directly in front of the iris instead of behind it. Like with extracapsualar surgery, absorbable sutures will be used to close the incision.
A newer type of surgery is also available, known as laser cataract surgery. Unlike traditional cataract surgery where an incision is made on the cornea using a hand-held tool, in laser-assisted cataract surgery this incision is made using a femtosecond laser.
A specialist computer software is used to create a 3-D image of the eye to map the location, depth and length of your cataracts.
Using this information, the laser creates a highly accurate and customized incision on your cornea. Like with traditional surgery, the old lens is then removed through the incision and an IOL is inserted.
Read more: Lens replacement surgery reviews
10. Cataract Surgery FAQs
1. What exactly are Cataracts?
Cataracts are cloudy patches that form in the eye’s lens, causing blurred vision and sometimes blindness if left untreated. They form due to a build-up of protein on the lens, which prevents light from reaching the back of the eye (retina), and stops you seeing clearly. Cataracts are very common and often age-related.
2. How long does it take to recover from cataract surgery?
You will start seeing clearly just a few hours after your cataract surgery, but your eye will take between four and six weeks to heal fully. Often surgeons recommend leaving at least a week before operating on each eye.
3. Is cataract surgery painful?
As with laser eye surgery, cataract surgery typically does not hurt – most people experience only mild discomfort. Before the surgery, you will receive anesthetic drops to prevent you from feeling anything more than a pressure on the eye during the procedure.
4. How long does cataract surgery last?
Cataract surgery is designed to last a lifetime, and your synthetic lens should never need replacing. Since your natural lens is removed and cataracts cannot form on the artificial lens, this treatment should be permanent.
5. What is a YAG laser capsulotomy?
A YAG laser capsulotomy is a quick laser surgery to improve your vision further after cataract surgery, if cataracts do reappear. According to the RNIB, 10% of people show new signs of cloudy lenses in the first two years after cataract surgery.
6. How much does a YAG laser capsulotomy cost?
The cost of a YAG laser capsulotomy ranges between £595 and £1,145 per eye. If you need this treatment over a year after your initial cataract surgery, often you will need to pay for it yourself, otherwise most clinics will offer this treatment for free.
Click here to find the best clinic for cataract surgery near you, and get a tailored quote from an eye expert.