As you grow older, some things just won't be the way they were. You’re going to have to come to terms with this.
You may not be as good-looking, and your joints might not be as strong. Probably worst of all, your eyes may not be as sharp as they once were.
Cataracts often develop slowly and can affect one or both eyes, best described as a clouding of the lenses which leads to a decrease in vision.
Fortunately, the rapid advancement of technology and breakthroughs in medical science can fix many of the things that once made growing old such a pain.
Cataract surgery is just one of these many advancements, and it has been ranked the most common form of surgery in Singapore, due to the country’s aging population.
DxD Sessions featured Dr Claudine Pang, a Consultant Ophthalmologist who graduated with a Distinction and Gold Medal in Medical Ethics, as well as the first and only female in the world to receive the highly coveted 1-year William H Ross Vitreoretinal Surgery Fellowship at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. She weighed in on the topic of cataract surgery and gave her advice on the common questions that Singaporeans often ask.
Don't worry, cataract surgery is very safe
Despite how terrifying it may look, Dr. Claudine reassured readers that cataract surgery in Singapore is a very safe procedure, with a success rate of more than 99%.
Having said that, any kind of surgery carries with it some risk even if the risk is very low. The risk of blindness is quoted at 0.0001% (approximately 1 in 10,000).
The main complications that may arise during cataract surgery include infection, which in itself is a very rare occurrence. Even if you take precautions such as getting copious amounts of antibiotic coverage before, during and after surgery, there still remains a small risk of eye infection. The infection could come about from unclean surroundings, microbial contamination or a lowered immune system.
Another complication is bleeding. Patients who have uncontrolled high blood pressure or are on pre-existing blood thinning medication must inform their doctors beforehand.
Cataract surgery can cost anywhere between $1500 to $8000 in Singapore
You could say that it's a pretty wide range, and that's because the average cost of the cataract surgery procedure alone (without the cost of the lens implant) is approximately $3000 – $5000.
The out-of-pocket cost to you then depends on factors like whether you are eligible for a government subsidy and whether surgery is done in a private or public hospital.
If you are able to get a special government subsidy, this amount can be brought down to as low as $1500. Government subsidies such as the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) and Pioneer Generation Package are only offered in public hospitals, not in private hospitals.
There's a catch though. Patients under such subsidies will not be able to choose their cataract surgeon or the type of intraocular lens.
As for choosing a hospital, you may be surprised to know that a non-subsidised (private) patient at a public hospital may end up paying as much, or more than a patient in a private hospital.
Yes, cataract surgery is covered by Medishield
Other insurance policies in Singapore also have plans involving cataract surgery. In fact, many of Dr. Claudine's patients have managed to claim the entire cost of their bill from Medishield, and other personal or company insurance policies.
Claims can also be made for the procedure, with Medisave being the most popular. Every Singaporean and Permanent Resident can claim up to $2450 for cataract surgery from their Medisave account or an account of their next-of-kin, whether spouse or child.
What? Cataract surgery is cheaper in Johor Bahru?
Well, of course, it is, along with the cost of everything else. It's not surprising that you have to pay double the amount for a similar service or product in Singapore compared to in Malaysia. This is largely due to the currency exchange rate, as well as the lower cost of surgical supplies, staff, and rental.
Dr. Claudine warned the reader who asked the question though that it is generally not advisable to have surgery done overseas, as you may have an unforeseen need for close monitoring or post-surgery care which would not be convenient if you’re required to travel for long hours.
It is also not very ideal since you will require proper rest in comfortable and familiar surroundings, with good support from family and/or friends that are present.
Looking for the best doctor for cataract surgery in Singapore?
A reader asked about the most important factors involved in choosing an eye surgeon for cataract surgery. Dr. Claudine responded with the following; the surgeon’s qualifications, his or her characteristics and other patients’ experiences with that surgeon.
In Singapore, ALL eye doctors or ophthalmologists are certified to perform cataract surgery. There is no additional training needed to perform cataract removal.
When considering how good the ‘extra’ training your doctor received in these areas of subspecialty has been, you may want to know the duration of his/her training overseas and which eye hospital and in which country it was done.
Get a feel for your surgeon’s characteristics
Dr. Claudine continues to explain that a few essential characteristics you should look for in your doctor are patience, meticulousness and genuine concern. If he/she is meticulous enough in your eye examination and consultation, he/she will likely do a meticulous job during surgery.
Your eye surgeon should also take extra time to find out about your daily activities and personal preferences. In doing so, it shows his/her genuine concern and care for you and in wanting to get your lens implant fitted to your exact visual needs.
It would also be ideal if you had a relative or friend who has had a good experience undergoing cataract surgery with the particular doctor. Searching for relevant patient reviews online can also prove useful.
Want more optimal outcomes for the surgery? Have some Vitamin C
Dr. Claudine prefers that you are completely well when going for surgery. Therefore, include more vitamin C-rich foods or supplements in your diet in order to boost your immune system. Vitamin C is also known to help tissue healing. If you have the flu or any viral-like illness or fever, it may be advisable to postpone the surgery until you are well. This is to prevent possibly spreading an infection on to your eye.
Secondly, avoid taking any food or medication that is known to cause blood-thinning as this may cause more excessive or easy bleeding during surgery.
Finally, say hello to Singapore's latest advancement in cataract surgery
The Femtosecond Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery (FLACS) uses a femtosecond-laser to assist in the cataract surgery, which typically involves creating a 2mm incisional wound, creating an opening at the top of the capsule or bag which holds the lens and using phacoemulsification energy to break up the lens.
According to the doctor, these steps are normally performed manually in standard phacoemulsification, however, with the advent of the femtosecond laser, these steps can be aided through the use of laser energy instead. This allows for the wound opening and capsule opening to be done more precisely.
Hopefully, these tips from a certified expert have helped you warm up to the idea that cataract surgery can be safe, effective and hugely beneficial in the long run.
Ever wanted to ask a health question to a specific renowned specialist in Singapore? DxD Sessions are when these expert doctors answer all your questions, for free!
- Davis G et al. The Evolution of Cataract Surgery. Mo Med. (2016)
- Lawless M et al. Reviewing the visual benefits of femtosecond laser-assisted cataract surgery: Can we improve our outcomes? Indian J Ophthalmol. (2017)