In 1747, Jacques Daviel, a French ophthalmologist successfully performed the first operation to remove cataracts. As the entire lens was removed, the procedure was only performed for the most severe cases. Unfortunately, medicine had not advanced quite as much in other areas. Fine sutures had not been developed yet so the wound remained open. The patient needed to be kept immobile so sandbags were used until the wound healed!
People have been removing cataracts since ancient times
Although the first modern surgery to extract cataracts was performed in the 18th century, people have actually been treating cataracts for much longer. In fact, the first documented cataract surgery was carried out in the fifth century BC. That makes it one of the oldest surgical procedures known to man.
The techniques used back then were definitely not as refined as today’s, or even the 18th century’s standards. Once the lens had become totally opaque and rigid, a treatment known as “couching” was used. This consisted of hitting the eye with a blunt object or inserting a sharp instrument into the eye.
Although it sounds bizarre by modern standards, there was some success. Patients would have partial vision restored. However, they were unable to focus so their sight remained blurry.