In 800 BC, there was an Indian surgeon named Sushruta, who authored the Sanskrit text and a book detailing a multitude of medical procedures and tools.
It also features an extensive study on the human anatomy and discusses hundreds of illnesses and medicines. He was one of the first surgeons to recommend practicing surgical procedures on inanimate objects like fruit and pottery. Modern medicine owes a great deal to him, and he has come to be known as the “Father of Surgery” by many.
It's no surprise that today's ophthalmology has also been influenced by his practices.
It has been said that Sushruta was the first surgeon to ever remove a cataract, which is an impressive feat considering the precision required to effectively operate on that part of the eye. He was also knowledgeable about the various forms of cataracts and described methods for treating them.
A full volume of Sushruta's work is dedicated to diseases of the eye. In the book, 18 whole chapters are devoted to describing 76 different kinds of vision problems, and 51 of these require operation in order to cure.
In another of his writings, he wrote extensively about various classifications of eye diseases, detailing possible symptoms and treatments for each.
He held that the eye corresponded to several elements: the muscles were the earth (Bhu), the blood held heat (Agni), the iris and pupil were air (Vayu), the transparent gel of the vitreous humor was fluid (Jala) and the tear glands were the void (Akasa).
Many of Sushruta's eye treatments utilized eye drops made from plants, meats and breast milk in a process that involved squeezing the materials through a piece of silk.
Many of his treatments and practices remain unchanged to this day. Of course, with the advent of better technology, things are now much more efficient and safe. However, these are all merely improvements on what was already solid surgical knowledge.
People often think that it was only in modern times that things like this became possible, when in fact the groundwork was set long ago for us to expand on and improve.
Ophthalmology is one of the most important medical fields there is because of the pivotal role the eye plays in human physiology. The eye is one of the most delicate organs on the body, fragile and exposed to the outside world, yet sight is one of our most fundamental senses.
It's important to protect your eyesight because the eye is a sensitive piece of machinery that can cause a slew of life-changing problems if it is ever damaged.
It's perhaps a little frightening to think what ophthalmology must have been like in the past before medical studies advanced to where they are today. Now we have the technology to operate on the eye with precision and accuracy, and surgical procedures for the eyes are usually almost painless.
Of course, ophthalmology wouldn't be where it is today without a long history to lay the foundation for its efficiency.