This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
7 But whilst the preceding kinds of lesion do not differ much among themselves or in the mode of treatment, those in the eyes which demand surgical measures are different from each other and differently treated. For instance in the upper eyelid cysts are apt to be formed, fatty and weighty, which hardly allow the eyes to be raised, and they set up[p. 327] a slight but persistent discharge of rheum from the eyes; and these generally occur in children. When the eyeball has been pressed with two fingers so as to render the skin of the upper eyelid tense, a transverse linear incision is to be made with a scalpel, with so light a touch that the cyst itself is not cut into; when the way is opened it protrudes of itself. It should then be seized with the fingers and taken out, for it comes away easily. One of the ointments, with which running eyes are anointed, is then smeared on, and in a very few days a fine scar is induced. There is more trouble when the cyst has been cut into, for it lets out a humour, and afterwards, because it is very thin, it cannot be laid hold of. Should this chance to happen, something to promote suppuration should be applied. A very small tumour forms in the same upper eyelid, above the line of the eyelashes, which from its resemblance to a barleycorn is termed by the Greeks crithê. Its contents are slow to come to a head and contained within a coat; it should be fomented with hot bread or with wax gently heated, but not so hot that it cannot easily be borne by that part; for under this treatment it is often dispersed, but at times it matures. When pus shows itself, it should be cut across with a scalpel and any humour inside squeezed out; then the eyelid is afterwards also to be fomented as above by steam, and ointment applied until it heals. Other tumours also, not unlike these, form on the eyelids; but they are not quite the same shape and are mobile, so that they can be pushed about[p. 329] with the finger; and so the Greeks call them chalazia. They should be cut down upon, from the outside if under the skin, from the inside if under the cartilage, than separated from the sound tissue by the handle of the scalpel. If the cut is on the inner surface, first mild, then more acrid ointment is to be applied; if on the outer, an agglutinating plaster is put on. An unguis too, called pterygium in Greek, is a little fibrous membrane, springing from the angle of the eye which sometimes even spreads so as to block the pupil. Most often it arises from the side of the nose, but sometimes from the temporal angle. When recent it is not difficult to disperse by the medicaments which thin away corneal opacities; if it is of long standing, and thick, it should be excised. After fasting for a day, the patient is either seated facing the surgeon, or turned away, so that he lies on his back, his head in the surgeon's lap. Some want him facing if the disease is in the left eye and lying down if in the right. Now one eyelid must be held open by the assistant, the other by the surgeon; but he holds the lower lid when seated opposite the patient, and the upper when the patient is on his back. Thereupon the surgeon passes a sharp hook, the point of which has been a little incurved, under the edge of the pterygium and fixes the hook in it; next, leaving that eyelid also to the assistant, he draws the hook towards himself thus lifting up the pterygium, and passes through it a needle carrying a thread; then having detached the needle, he takes hold of the two[p. 331] ends of the thread, and raises up the pterygium by means of the thread; he now separates any part of it which adheres to the eyeball by the handle of the scalpel until the angle is reached; next by alternately pulling and slackening the thread, he is able to discover the beginning of the pterygium and the end of the angle. For there is double danger, that either some of the pterygium is left behind and if this ulcerates, it is hardly ever amenable to treatment; or that with it part of the flesh is cut away from the angle; and if the pterygium is pulled too strongly, the flesh follows unnoticed, and when it is cut away a hole is left through which there is afterwards a persistent flow of rheum; the Greeks name it rhyas. Therefore the true edge of the angle must certainly be observed; and when this has been clearly determined, after the pterygium has been drawn forward just enough, the scalpel is to be used, then that little membrane is to be cut away as not to injure the angle in any way. After that, lint soaked in honey is to be put on, and over that a piece of linen, and either a sponge or unscoured wool. And for the next few days the eye must be opened daily to prevent the eyelids uniting by a scar for if that happens a third danger is added; and the lint is to be put on again, and last of all one of the salves applied which help wounds to heal. But this treatment ought to be in the spring, or certainly before winter; this warning applies to many cases, and it will be enough to give it here once for all. For there are two classes of treatment: one in which we cannot choose the time but must make the best of things, as in the case of wounds; the other in which there is no urgency and[p. 333] it is safest to wait, for example when the affection progresses slowly and the patient is not racked by pain. Then we should wait for spring, or if there is more urgency, autumn is better than either summer or winter, and especially mid-autumn when the hot weather has broken and the cold not yet begun. The more essential the part to be treated, the greater the danger; and often the larger the wound to be made, the more regard should thus be paid to the season. In the course of treating pterygium, lesions arise, as I have just said, which are also apt to arise from other causes. Sometimes when the pterygium has not been quite cut away or from some other cause, a small tumour, called by the Greeks encanthis, forms at the angle and this does not allow the eyelids to be completely drawn down. It should be caught up with a hook and cut around, but with so delicate a touch that nothing is cut away from the angle itself. A bit of lint is then besprinkled with oxide of zinc or blacking, and inserted into that angle after separating the lids, and over this the dressing as above is bandaged on. Upon the following days, the eye is dressed in the same way, after having been fomented with tepid, or even with cold water. At times the eyelids adhere together, and the eye cannot be opened. When this happens, the eyelids commonly adhere to the white of the eye, that is to say, when an ulceration upon either has been carelessly treated; for in the course of healing what could and should have been kept apart has been allowed to stick: the Greeks give the name of ancyloblepharus to one who suffers from both lesions. When the eyelids only stick together they[p. 335] are separated without difficulty, but sometimes this is useless for they stick together again. Separation should be tried, however, because it is generally a success. The reverse end of a probe is to be inserted and the eyelids separated by this, then small pledglets of wool are put in until ulceration of the part has ceased. But when an eyelid adheres to the white of the eye itself, Heraclides of Tarentum invented the method of cutting underneath the eyelid with the knife held, but very carefully, so that nothing is cut away, either from the eyeball, or from the eyelid, and if something must be, rather from the eyelid. The eyeball should afterwards be anointed with the medicaments with which trachoma is treated; and the eyelid turned up every day, not only that the medicament may be applied to the ulceration, but also lest the eyelid should adhere again; moreover the patient himself should be told to raise his eyelid frequently with two fingers. I for my part do not remember anyone to have been cured by this method. Meges also has recorded that he tried many times, but was never successful, for the eyelid has always again become adherent to the eyeball. Again, at the angle next to the nostrils, there opens a sort of small fistula, due to some lesion, through which rheum persistently drips; the Greeks call it aigilops. This causes a persistent eye trouble; sometimes it even eats away the bone, and penetrates to the nostril. And at time it has the character of a carcinoma when the veins become distended and look jaundiced, the skin livid, hard and irritable to the slightest touch, and it gives rise to inflammation in the parts near to it. Of[p. 337] these affections it is dangerous to treat those which resemble carcinoma, for that even hastens death. Again, it is useless to treat those which penetrate to the nostrils for they never heal. But when limited to the angle, treatment is possible so long as we do not forget that it is difficult. The nearer the opening to the angle, the greater the deficiency, on account of the very narrow space for handling the lesion. When the trouble is fresh, however, cure is easier. Now the margin of the opening is to be caught up by a hook, then as I have described for fistula in general the whole channel down to the bone is to be excised; and the eye and adjacent parts having been well covered over, the bone is to be cauterized; and more thoroughly when there is already decay, in order that a thicker scale may separate. Some apply caustics, such as cobbler's blacking or bronze or copper filings, which act more slowly, and do not have the same effect. After cauterization of the bone, the same treatment is followed as in other burns. The eyelashes also may irritate the eye from two causes: one is that the skin on the outer surface of the eyelid becomes relaxed and slips downwards, causing its eyelashes to be turned inwards against the eyeball because the cartilage does not simultaneously give way; in the other case, beyond the natural row of eyelashes another row sprouts out, which is directed straight inwards against the eyeball. The following are the modes of treatment. If eyelashes have grown where they ought not, a fine iron needle flattened like a spear point is put into the fire; then when the eyelid is turned up, so that the offending eyelashes can be seen by[p. 339] the operator, the red hot needle is passed along their roots, from the angle, for a third of the length of the eyelid, then for a second and for a third time, until the opposite angle is reached; this causes all the roots of the eyelashes so cauterized to die. A medicament is then applied to check inflammation, and when the crusts have become detached, cicatrization is to be induced. This kind of trouble is very easily cured. Some say that a needle carrying a doubled-up hair from a woman's head should be passed through the eyelid from within outwards close to the eyelashes, and where the needle has passed through, an eyelash is to be inserted into the loop of the said hair where doubled, and the eyelash drawn by the loop through to the outer surface of the eyelid; there it is to be glued down; and a medicament is then applied to agglutinate the puncture; thus it comes about that afterwards that eyelash is directed outwards. But in the first place this cannot be done unless the eyelash is rather long, and in this situation they are generally short; further, when numerous eyelashes are affected, the passing of a needle so many times is necessarily a prolonged torture, and it may set up severe inflammation. Lastly, when there is any rheum subsisting there, and the eye has been irritated previously by the eyelashes, and now by the perforation through the eyelid, it is scarcely possible that the glue binding down the eyelash should not be dissolved; and so it comes to pass that the eyelash returns to the position from which it was forcibly removed. But there is no doubt about the following treatment of too lax an eyelid, which is commonly practised by everybody. It is necessary to close the eye and[p. 341] from the middle, either of the upper or the lower eyelid, to seize a fold of skin between a finger and thumb, and so to raise it; then consider how much must be removed the lid to be in a natural position for the future. In this too there are two dangers; that if too much has been excised the eyeball cannot be covered, if too little nothing has been gained, and a patient has been cut to no purpose. Next where it is seen that incision is to be made, a mark must be made by two lines of ink, but in such a way that between the margin holding the eyelashes, and the marked line adjacent, there remains skin enough for a needle afterwards to take up. When everything is ready the scalpel is to be applied; and the incision nearer the eyelashes themselves is to be made first in the case of the upper lid, but second for the lower one; in the case of the left eye, the incision is made from the outer angle; of the right eye from the inner one; then the skin between the two incisions is to be excised. Next the edges of the wound are to be brought into opposition by one stitch, and the eye is to be closed and if the eyelid descends too little the suture is slackened, if too much, either the suture is tightened, or even an additional fine strip may be excised from the margin furthest from the eyelashes. Where the eyelid has been cut other sutures may be put in but not more than three. Further, in the case of the upper lid, a linear incision is to be made under the row of eyelashes itself, so that these having been drawn away from under are directed upwards, and when there is but a slight drooping of the upper lid, this alone may suffice; the lower lid does not need the additional incision. When these things[p. 343] have been done, a sponge squeezed out of cold water is bandaged on. The next day an agglutinating plaster is applied; on the fourth day the sutures are taken out, and a salve for repressing inflammation smeared on. But in the course of the above treatment it sometimes happens that when too much skin has been excised, the eyeball is not covered; and occasionally this also occurs from some other cause: the Greeks call the condition lagophthalmus. If too much of the eyelid is lost, no treatment can restore it; if a small loss it may be remedied. Just below the eyebrow the skin is to be incised in the figure of a crescent with the horns pointing downwards. The incision should reach as far as the cartilage without injuring it; for should the cartilage be cut into, the eyelid will droop, and cannot afterwards be raised. Therefore if the skin is merely drawn apart, it follows that the bottom of the eyelid droops slightly because of the gap made by the cut above; into this gap lint is to be inserted, both to prevent the separated edges from reuniting, and to help the growth of the flesh between, so that the eyeball comes to be properly covered when the gap has filled up. Whilst a defect in the upper eyelid is that it descends too little and so does not cover the eyeball, sometimes the lower lid is not raised enough but hangs down and gapes open, and cannot reach the upper lid. And this, too, happens sometimes from the defective treatment described above, sometimes from old age: the Greeks call it ectropion.[p. 345] If this is due to bad treatment, the same procedure as that noted above is employed, but the horns of the incision are to be directed now towards the jaws, not towards the eyeball: if from old age, all that extrudes is burnt away with a fine cautery, then honey smeared on; from the fourth day the eye is steamed, and anointed with medicaments to induce a scar. Such as a rule are the lesions which are apt to occur around the eyeball in the angles or eyelids. But in the eyeball itself the outer tunic is sometimes raised, by the rupture or by the relaxation of certain membranes inside, and its shape becomes like a grape: the Greeks therefore call the lesion staphyloma. There are two modes of treatment. In one a needle carrying two threads is passed through the middle of its base, and first the two ends of the upper thread, and then those of the lower, are knotted, and these gradually cut through and so excise the staphyloma. In the other method, a piece about the size of a lentil is cut off from its tip, then oxide or carbonate of zinc is dusted on. After either method, wool soaked in white of egg is applied; subsequently the eye is steamed, and then anointed with soothing medicaments. Again, small hard tumours in the white of the eyeball are called clavi, from a resemblance in shape to nailheads. These it is best to transfix with a needle at their base, and to cut away underneath the needle; then to anoint with soothing medicaments. I have already made mention elsewhere of [p. 347] cataract, because when of recent origin it is also often dispersed by medicaments: when it is more chronic it requires treatment by surgery, and this is one of the most delicate operations. Before I speak of this, the nature of the eyeball itself has to be briefly explained. A knowledge of this is often useful, but especially here. The eyeball, then, has two external tunics, of which the outer is called by the Greeks ceratoides. In that part of the eye which is white it is fairly thick; over the region of the pupil it is thin. To this tunic the under one is joined; in the middle where the pupil is, it is pierced by a small hole: around this it is thin, further out it too is thicker and is called by the Greeks chorioides. These two tunics whilst enclosing the contents of the eyeball, coalesce again behind it, and after becoming thinned out and fused into one, go through the space between the bones, and adhere to the membrane of the brain. Under these two tunics, at the spot where the pupil is, there is an empty space; then underneath again is the thinnest tunic, which Herophilus named arachnoides. At its middle the arachnoides is cupped, and contained in that hollow is what, from its resemblance to glass, the Greeks call hyaloides; it is humour, neither fluid nor thick, but as it were curdled, and upon its colour is dependent the colour of the pupil, whether black or steel-blue, since the outer tunic is quite white: but this humour is enclosed by that thin[p. 349] membrane which comes over it from the interior. In front of these is a drop of humour like white of egg, from which comes the faculty of seeing; it is named by the Greeks crystalloides. Now either from disease or from a blow, a humour forms underneath the two tunics in what I have stated to be an empty space; and this as it gradually hardens is an obstacle to the visual power within. And there are several species of this lesion; some curable, some which do not admit of treatment. For there is hope if the cataract is small, and immobile, if it has also the colour of sea water or of glistening steel, and if at the side there persists some sensation to a flash of light. If large, if the black part of the eye has lost its natural configuration and is changed to another form, if the colour of the suffusion is sky blue or golden, if it shakes and moves this way and that, then it is scarcely ever to be remedied. Generally too the case is worse when the cataract has arisen from a severe disease, from severe pains in the head or from a blow of a violent kind. Old age is not favourable for treatment, since apart from this lesion, sharpness of vision is naturally dulled; neither is childhood favourable, but rather intermediate ages. Neither a small nor a sunken eye is satisfactory for treatment. And in the cataract itself, there is a certain development. Therefore we must wait until it is no longer fluid, but appears to have coalesced to some sort of hardness. Before[p. 351] treatment the patient should eat in moderation and for three days beforehand drink water, for the day before abstain from everything. Then he is to be seated opposite the surgeon in a light room, facing the light, while the surgeon sits on a slightly higher seat; the assistant from behind holds the head so that the patient does not move: for vision can be destroyed permanently by a slight movement. In order also that the eye to be treated may be held more still, wool is put over the opposite eye and bandaged on: further the left eye should be operated on with the right hand, and the right eye with the left hand. Thereupon a needle is to be taken pointed enough to penetrate, yet not too fine; and this is to be inserted straight through the two outer tunics at a point intermediate between the pupil of the eye and the angle adjacent to the temple, away from the middle of the cataract, in such a way that no vein is wounded. The needle should not be, however, entered timidly, for it passes into the empty space; and when this is reached even a man of moderate experience cannot be mistaken, for there is then no resistance to pressure. When the spot is reached, the needle is to be sloped against the suffusion itself and should gently rotate there and little by little guide it below the region of the pupil; when the cataract has passed below the pupil it is pressed upon most firmly in order that it may settle below. If it sticks there the cure is accomplished; if it returns to some extent, it is to be cut up with the same needle and separated into several pieces, which can be the more easily stowed away singly, and form smaller obstacles to vision. After this the[p. 353] needle is drawn straight out; and soft wool soaked in white of egg is to be put on, and above this something to check inflammation; and then bandages. Subsequently the patient must have rest, abstinence, and inunction with soothing medicaments; the day following will be soon enough for food, which at first should be liquid to avoid the use of the jaws; then, when the inflammation is over, such as has been prescribed for wounds, and in addition to these directions it is necessary that water should for some time be the only drink. Also with regard to the discharge of a thin rheum which troubles the eyes, I have already explained what is to be done by means of medicaments. I come now to cases which demand surgical treatment. But we have remarked that in some the eyes never dry up, but are always moistened by a thin rheum; this keeps up trachoma, and upon slight provocation excites inflammations and ophthalmia, so troubling the patient all his life; and sometimes this cannot be remedied at all, but sometimes it is curable. This is the first thing to be decided, that in the latter case the patient may be relieved, in the former no surgical treatment may be applied. And in the first place, the treatment is useless in those who have had the disorder from infancy, of necessity it will continue to their dying day; again, it is not necessary in those cases where the discharge is scanty, though acrid, since they will derive no benefit from surgery; by medicaments and by the regulation of diet which renders the rheum thicker, they come back to health. Further, broad heads are hardly ever adapted to the treatment. Then it makes a difference whether[p. 355] the rheum comes from blood vessels between the skull and the scalp, or from those between the membrane of the brain and the skull. Generally those above the skull irrigate the eyes by way of the temples, those under it by way of membranes connecting the eyes with the brain. Now it is possible to apply a remedy to those blood vessels which lie above the bone — to those below it is not. Neither can patients be relieved in whom rheum is flowing down both ways, because although relieved in one direction, none the less trouble continues by the other. How the matter stands is to be learnt as follows. The head having been first shaved, those medicaments by which the rheum is checked in ophthalmia are smeared on from the eyebrow to the crown of the head. If the eyes begin to dry, it is clear that the moisture comes from those blood vessels which are beneath the scalp; if in spite of the application, they continue moist, it is manifest that the downflow of rheum is from under the skull. If there is humour but in less amount, the lesion is double. In the majority of patients, however, it is found that the superficial blood vessels are involved, and so also the majority can be relieved. This is well known, not in Greece only, but among other races too, so that no portion of the Art of Medicine has become more widespread among the nations of the earth. Some Greek practitioners made nine linear incisions into the scalp, two vertical ones in the occipital region, a transverse one above[p. 357] them; then two above the ears, with a cross-cut uniting them, three vertical ones between the crown and the forehead. Others were found who drew those lines directly from the vertex to the temples and having ascertained where the muscles began from the movements of the jaws, cut through the scalp over them with a light hand, and after the margins of the incisions had been retracted by blunt hooks, inserted lint, in order that the former edges of the skin should not unite, and that flesh should grow up in between so as to constrict the veins carrying humour to the eyes. Some even marked out with ink two lines, from the middle of one ear to the middle of the other, and from the nose to the crown. Then, where the two lines meet, they cut with a scalpel, and after blood has flowed out, they cauterized the bone there. But further, both on the temples and also between the forehead and crown, they likewise applied the red hot cautery to prominent blood vessels. A treatment frequently used is to cauterize the blood vessels on the temples, which indeed in this malady are usually rather swollen, but in order that they may be more distended and show up better, the neck is first bandaged moderately tight and the blood vessels then burnt with fine blunt cautery points until the flow of rheum to the eyes ceases. For that is a sign of the blocking up as it were of the channels by which humor was being carried. There is a more effectual means, however, when the blood vessels are thin and deep-seated, and so cannot be picked out, whereby the neck is bandaged as before, and the patient holds his breath, so as to make the vessels more prominent, and then those on the temples and between the fore-[p. 359]head and vertex are marked out with ink; upon this the neck is released, the blood vessels are cut into where marked and blood let flow; when enough has been let out, the vessels are burnt with fine cauteries; over the temples this is done cautiously lest the underlying muscles controlling the jaws feel it; between the forehead and the crown the cautery is applied firmly in order that a scale may become detached from the skull. Even more efficacious is the African method; they burn the crown of the scalp through down to the bone so that it may cast off a scale. But there is nothing better than the practice in transalpine Gaul; there they pick out blood vessels in the temples and crown of the head. Now I have already explained the treatment after cautery. I here add that there should be no haste, either in detaching crust, or in letting the ulceration heal after cauterization of blood vessels, lest haemorrhage burst out, or pus be too quickly suppressed, for whilst it is the object by the ulceration to dry up these parts, it is not the object to drain them out by bleeding; but if there is bleeding, such medicaments should be sprinkled on as suppress bleeding, but do not cauterize. With regard to the selection of blood vessels, and what is to be done when they are picked out, I will speak when I come to varicose veins in the leg.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.