How Much Does Cataract Surgery Cost? Eye Love Cares
How much does cataract surgery cost? The short answer is that it costs about $3,600 per eye, but the price you pay will depend on several factors. The three main elements we will be discussing are the type of lens that is put in the eye, the procedure used to complete the process, and the expertise of the doctor performing the surgery. Read on to discover how these factors will affect the costs.
Related: Cataract Surgery Recovery
How to Determine Cataract Surgery Cost – Types of lenses
There are several different choices of IOL (intraocular lens) available that can be implanted during the surgery.
The standard lens used during cataract surgery is the monofocal IOL. This lens is usually covered under insurance because it is considered medically necessary. Since your natural lens is removed during cataract surgery, and you need a new lens to replace it, the monofocal lens is what is standardly used. If you needed reading glasses before your cataract surgery, you would still need reading glasses after surgery. If you had astigmatism before your cataract surgery, you would likely need prescription glasses after surgery as well.
Presbyopia-Correcting (Multifocal and Accommodating) IOLs
Sometimes people going through cataract surgery want to correct pre-existing vision problems at the same time since they are already going under the knife. Patients who are unable to see up close without reading glasses may choose to replace their lens with presbyopia-correcting IOLs. The two most common of this type of lens are the multifocal IOL and accommodating IOL. To have this correction done during your cataract surgery, plan on spending over $2,000 per eye.
Patients who had astigmatism prior to the cataract surgery could choose to have a Toric IOLs implanted. This would enable the patient to see clearly for distance and close up use. The average additional cost for the Toric IOL is $1,370 per eye.
Lens technology is improving every day. There are also lenses now that block ultraviolet and blue light rays for the patient. These ultraviolet rays may damage the retina.
The way the procedure is performed may also determine the cost of your cataract surgery.
The most common type of procedure done during a cataract surgery today is phacoemulsification. During this process, the surgeon makes tiny incisions near the cataract. The cataract is broken up with ultrasonic energy and removed from the eye using gentle suction. The new lens is then placed into position, directly behind the pupil. No stitches are required at the end of this surgery.
Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery
Your surgeon could instead use a laser to assist during the cataract surgery. The surgeon would use a laser to make the first incision in the eye and to gain access to the cataract. The laser would also be used to fragment the lens before its removal from the eye.
The laser-assisted cataract surgery tends to cost more than the conventional (phacoemulsification) method. Not surprisingly, medical lasers cost big bucks – hundreds of thousands of dollars. The surgeon also has to pay additional costs to maintain the laser. That cost is passed on to the patient.
The good news is that if you have insurance or Medicare, sometimes the laser method is covered, or you may only have to pay a slight bit more out of pocket ($200-$300).
There are several FDA-approved laser systems that your doctor may discuss with you. Your doctor will tell you which system he or she uses in his or her practice.
Alcon made the first laser system that earned FDA approval for use in cataract surgery. This system’s laser is used for corneal incisions, capsulotomies, and cataract fragmentation. Capsulotomies are usually not performed in modern cataract surgeries. During a capsulotomy, the crystalline lens capsule (or the outer bag of the lens) is removed.
The AR in LensAR stands for augmented reality. This system collects information on the patient’s eye and then reconstructs a 3-D model of the anatomy of the eye. It is also used for corneal incisions, capsulotomies, and cataract fragmentation.
Abbott Medical Optics’ Catalys system uses the laser for the three main parts of the cataract surgery, but it also has a mechanism that helps reduce the risks associated with high blood pressure during the operation. If you have high blood pressure, you might want to seek out a surgeon who uses the Catalys system.
Bausch & Lomb’s Victus uses the laser, again, for corneal incisions, capsulotomy, and cataract fragmentation. This system takes it a step further by minimizing the possibility of eye tilt or distortion. The precise nature of this system helps maintain the natural shape of the eye during the surgery.
Temto LDV Z8
Ziemer Ophthalmics performs the cataract procedure faster but gentler than earlier designed machines. Even though the procedure is faster than the traditional method, it also promises to provide more precision and predictability.
While all these systems sound impressive, it is important to remember that the quality of the system is less important than the quality of the doctor. The traditional cataract surgery is known for producing outstanding results as well. One of the benefits of having the operation completed with a laser is that if you are using a premium lens, having a surgeon use a laser may help you achieve your goal of a life without glasses after your surgery.
Related: Cost of Cataract Surgery?
Doctor Expertise Can Impact Cataract Surgery Cost
This is the most challenging category regarding cataract surgery to discuss. Some doctors may claim to use the most modern techniques to conduct your cataract surgery. Others may say he or she is an expert because of the number of cataract surgeries he or she has performed. Some may charge more to perform the same surgery because they perceive that they are better at it than others. While all of these factors may be true for your surgeon, how can you really tell that one is worth more money than the other?
If you are paying out of pocket for your cataract surgery, of course, the price will play a role in choosing the right surgeon for the job. You may need to do comparison pricing to find a surgeon for you that fits within your budget. Otherwise, it would probably be wise to follow the advice of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
This organization first tells you to talk with your regular eye doctor. It could be that your eye doctor is qualified to perform the surgery. It could be that your regular eye doctor has an ophthalmologist that they would recommend for you to use. Again, if you are paying out of pocket for the surgery, you may want to visit several surgeons before making your decision.
Discuss with your eye doctor what type of lens is the best for you. If you choose to replace your lens with a premium lens instead of going with a regular monofocal lens, you need to ask the surgeons if they have experience with those lenses.
Ask your friends and family members about their experiences with the ophthalmologist. Keep in mind that some people’s health difficulties have little to do with the doctor performing the surgery but instead be due to extenuating circumstances.
Use online tools to find an eye surgeon in your area. The American Academy of Ophthalmology has an online tool to help you find a qualified doctor in your area.
Other factors might come up when choosing an eye doctor. Do you feel comfortable with the doctor and his or her staff? Did you feel that the doctor took the time to explain the procedure to you? Did the doctor give a clear view of the risks associated with surgery or did the doctor guarantee that you will have perfect vision after the surgery? A doctor who promises perfection at all costs should cause you to pause.
More about cataract surgery cost
As stated earlier, cataract surgery will cost approximately $3,600 per eye if you are paying out of pocket for a standard (non-laser) procedure with a monofocal lens. If you choose to correct your astigmatism by having a more complex IOL implanted, plan on paying almost $5,000 per eye. Cataract surgery that corrects presbyopia will cost close to $6,000 per eye. These prices are based on the average in the United States in 2017, but they are variable depending on here you live.
Let’s say you have insurance or Medicare, but you decide you would like to pay more for the premium lenses to correct your astigmatism. To have a Toric IOL implanted, you may pay an additional cost over what your insurance company pays your doctor. Further treatment may be recommended to correct your astigmatism. These limbal relaxing incisions cost on average $650 per eye.
As mentioned earlier, sometimes your insurance company or Medicare may pay for your cataract to be fixed using a laser treatment. If you do not have such insurance, and you want to have the doctor use one of the laser incisions on your eye, you may need to pay over $1000 more per eye.
If you have insurance, but you choose to pay a premium to have a presbyopia-correcting IOL, plan on spending over $2000 more per eye.
Why doesn’t your insurance cover all types of lenses?
Insurance companies argue that reading glasses or eyeglasses are just as useful for correcting your vision, but a lot less expensive than using a premium lens during your cataract surgery. For this reason, insurance companies will view that premium lenses are not medically necessary.
Choosing premium lenses for cataract surgery can be compared with choosing to undergo a LASIK procedure. Insurance companies do not pay for this procedure, because they see the procedure as more of a cosmetic one and not medically necessary.
Questions to ask your health insurance company about your cataract surgery cost
It is your responsibility to make sure you understand the cataract surgery cost along with any other costs associated with your surgery. Here are some of the questions you may want to ask your insurance provider.
Do I have a copay for this procedure? Do I have a deductible? Is my surgeon a preferred provider? If not, do you need to approve my surgeon before I undergo the process? Is the surgical center considered “in network?” Does my surgeon or eye doctor need to send documentation to the insurance company to say that my cataract procedure is medically necessary?
How to choose the right IOL for you
Now that we have discussed the three ramifications that will alter the cataract surgery cost, let’s talk a little bit more about how to choose the best lens for your situation.
Insurance companies and Medicare traditionally cover monofocal lenses. They have a good track record as they have been used for decades. Most doctors set their monofocal lenses for distance vision, and then the patients can use reading glasses for close-up.
Another group of people who may prefer monofocal lenses over the more expensive IOLs are people who frequently drive at night. Multifocal or accommodative lenses may cause glares or halos around lights. They may also have more difficulty focusing in dim light.
More about Accommodative Lenses
Perhaps you spend a great deal of time reading or looking at screens, and you would rather not use reading glasses. If this is the case, you may want to try multifocal lenses. A word of warning about multifocal lenses: if you are the type of person who needs to see crisp both far and near, this may not be the lens for you.
This is how multifocal lenses work: the lens has different zones that focus for distance and near, and the lens may actually accomodate to move from distance to near vision. After some time, the brain adapts to be able to process information in such a way. While you may not enjoy a super crisp focus for either your distance or near vision, you will not have to wear glasses or corrective lenses, in most cases. Some patients may have a smooth transition getting used to multifocal lenses after cataract surgery. Some may have already experienced that sensation by wearing multifocal contacts or glasses at some period in their lives.
More about toric lenses
People with astigmatism have a misshapen cornea. Instead of being spherical, it is instead shaped like a football. Those with astigmatism have a difficult time seeing far and near. Those who have astigmatism usually are happiest with toric lenses. These lenses correct for astigmatism.
If you are having your cataract surgery done, and if you have astigmatism, you may want to have an additional treatment called limbal relaxing incisions. Insurance may not cover the toric lenses or the limbal relaxing incisions, though.
What are cataracts?
While much of the discussion thus far has focused on cataract surgery, there has been little explanation of what a cataract is.
Cataracts are the clouding of the eye’s lens. There are many different types of cataracts:
Posterior Subcapsular cataract
A subcapsular cataract happens at the back of the lens. People with diabetes and steroid users are more likely to develop this type of cataract than others.
Associated with aging, nuclear cataracts form deep in the nucleus of the lens.
Cortical cataracts start in the outside of the lens and work their way into the center in a series of spokes. This type of cataract occurs in the lens cortex.
Although rare, it is possible that a baby has a cataract at birth. They are usually associated with certain birth defects, but can also occur independently.
How do you know if you have a cataract?
Perhaps you have a difficult time seeing, but you don’t know if it is because of your prescription changing or some other issue with your eyes. Here are some of the symptoms of cataracts.
- You may experience clouded, blurred or dim vision.
- You may have a difficult time seeing at night.
- You may be more sensitive to harsh lights or glare.
- Perhaps you see halos around things.
- Are you always turning on bright lights to read?
- Do colors not seem as vibrant as they once were?
- Are you experiencing double vision in one of your eyes?
How do you prepare for cataract surgery?
Your doctor will perform most of the work to prepare for your cataract surgery. He or she will need to measure the shape and size of your eye to determine the right size and type of lens implant.
Your doctor may recommend that you stop taking certain medications before undergoing surgery. If the doctor makes that recommendation, do it! Some drugs increase the likelihood of extra bleeding during your procedure.
Your doctor will probably recommend that you use prescription eye drops before your surgery. These eye drops will reduce the risk of infection.
Your doctor may ask you not to drink or eat anything at least 12 hours before the procedure. These are very common instructions for anyone undergoing surgery.
Make sure you have someone around to drive you home after your surgery. Your vision may be impaired, and you may be super sensitive to light after the surgery.
It is worth mentioning that usually doctors recommend that you treat cataracts one at a time. If you have cataracts in both eyes, you will probably be asked to wait between one and three months before having the second procedure done.
After your final cataract has been removed, check with your doctor before ordering a new set of glasses or contact lenses. Some doctors recommend that you wait one to three months after your last cataract surgery before getting a new prescription.
What happens during cataract surgery?
You may or may not want to know the process that your surgeon will be performing during your surgery. Those who are particularly squeamish may want to skip this section!
First, your doctor will put eye drops in your eye to dilate your pupil. You will receive anesthesia to numb the area, and you will be given a sedative to help you relax. You will probably stay awake during surgery, but you will be groggy.
During the first part of the cataract surgery, the procedure called phacoemulsification will be performed. Your surgeon will make a tiny incision in the front of your eye and insert a probe into the area where the cataract has formed. The probe is used to transmit ultrasound waves to the cataract, which will break up the cataract into pieces. The pieces of the cataract will be suctioned out of the eye.
Once the cataract lens is removed, the artificial lens is implanted into the empty area. The process takes about an hour.
Your anesthesiologist will make sure you don’t feel anything during your cataract procedure. Even though you will be awake, the medications that the doctors give you will make it hard for you to remember anything that happened during the surgery.
You may feel some discomfort after the procedure. Usually, this pain is managed with over-the-counter pain medication.
What are the possible risks of having cataract surgery?
Cataract surgery is extremely common. There are risks involved with any operation. Such risks may include inflammation, infection, bleeding, swelling, retinal detachment, glaucoma, and a loss of vision. Most of the time these complications occur if you have other medical issues or other issues with your eyes. If you have dry eyes, glaucoma, or macular degeneration, talk with an expert in the field to determine your best course of action.
What can you expect after cataract surgery?
Like with most surgeries, a person receiving cataract surgery must spend time recovering. Your vision may be blurry at first, but it will begin to improve within a few days.
It will feel as if you stepped into Oz after your cataract surgery. Since cataracts cause you to see dull colors, you will be amazed at how bright colors actually are after your surgery.
Since your eye will be healing from the procedure, you may feel general itchiness in the area. Avoid rubbing or pushing on your eyes.
Signs that something is wrong
Most of the time, your doctor will require you to come back for a follow-up appointment after your surgery. If you experience vision loss, severe pain, increased eye redness, or light flashes or floaters in the eyes, contact your doctor immediately.
While you may be nervous that something will go wrong as a result of your cataract surgery, statistics show that most of the time this surgery is very successful. Nine out of ten people who have cataract surgery regain between 20/20 and 20/40 vision.
What causes cataracts?
Some go their whole lives without getting cataracts. Others have to have multiple surgeries to have them removed. What causes them?
Even though age doesn’t “cause” cataracts, it is usually older people who develop them. You are more likely to develop cataracts if you have diabetes, have hypertension, are obese, and are a smoker. You also may be more likely to develop cataracts if you used corticosteroid medications for a prolonged time or statin medicines that are used to reduce your cholesterol. If you have had other eye issues, you may be more likely to have cataracts. Other eye surgeries, injuries, or inflammation may cause cataracts. If you have experienced hormone replacement therapy, you may be more likely to have cataracts as well. Alcohol consumption or high myopia are also risk factors. Also, if you have a family history of cataracts, you are more likely to develop them yourself.
How do you prevent cataracts?
The studies are still out on how to prevent cataracts. Some think that increasing your vitamin E consumption and increasing foods with carotenoids could help. Your mom always said that carrots were good for your eyes! Other foods that are good for your eyes include sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, kale, and green, leafy vegetables.
Other studies have shown that antioxidant vitamins like Vitamin C and foods containing omega three fatty acids may reduce cataract risk.
There are many vitamins explicitly designed for eye health on the market that you can take if you feel your diet is not rich enough in these nutrients.
Of course, protecting your eyes from UV rays is also an excellent way to reduce your likelihood of developing cataracts. Wear your sunglasses anytime you’re outdoors, even on cloudy days! You can check out great polarized sunglasses here.
How many Americans get cataract surgery?
Three million Americans undergo cataract surgery each year. The success rate for this surgery is 98 percent or higher. Between 1994 and 2006, 99.5 percent of patients who underwent cataract surgery had no complications. This number has probably improved since then as a result of continued advances in technology.
If you or your loved one needs to have cataract surgery, don’t put it off. Your quality of life will improve by having a relatively simple, quick, and safe operation, and now you know the cataract surgery cost. The recovery time is minimal. Imagine how amazing it will feel to wake up with perfect vision just a few weeks after your surgery? This would be a fantastic feeling, especially if you have worn glasses or corrective lenses for over 50 years.