Firstly, don’t worry – they are, as we explained above, very common. However, cataracts cannot be treated with drops or medicines. The only treatment is to remove the lens through a tiny opening in the eye and replace it with an artificial lens - this is what is done during cataract surgery. Cataract removal is the most commonly performed operation in the UK
Your optometrist (optician) or GP can recommend an ophthalmologist (eye surgeon) or you can ask to see a specific surgeon who has been recommended to you. Your surgeon should be appropriately qualified (e.g. Fellow of the Royal Colege of Ophthalmologists, abbreviated to FRCOphth) and ideally should hold a substantive NHS consultant post. Note that it is not usually possible to request a specific surgeon within the NHS.
Generally patients with early cataract and mild symptoms can continue as normal with their day to day activities. However, if the cataract is severely cloudy, then patients will be aware of difficulties with reading, distance and driving vision. Your optometrist, GP, or ophthalmologist will advise you as to whether it is safe to drive, as you must satisfy certain criteria.
Cataract sugery can usually be arranged at your convenience in the private sector (depending on when the surgeon's operating sessions are). Wait times will vary depending on the time of year and patient volumes. Our practice can usually arrange surgery within 2-4 weeks, although this has been done faster where patients have requested it (if they live overseas, for example). Obviously this comes with the usual benefits of private medicine, which can sometimes include your own room and facilities, although cataract operations do not usually require an overnight stay.
The NHS will give you less choice in terms of time and a longer wait, although these vary depending on which region you're in. Your GP can arange for you to be referred to your regional NHS cataract service. You can, via your GP, choose the unit you wish to be referred to, ("Patient Choice") but you may not meet surgeon before surgery, nor can you specify which surgeon operates upon you.