Learn more about the first attempts at cataracts treatment, and the innovators who have paved the way for how cataracts are treated today.
Jun 05, 2018
Cataract Removal Surgery and IOLs
Enough to make you squirm, it’s been revealed that in 29 A.D., a method called “needling” was used by ancient doctors to perform cataract surgery. The procedure sliced the cataract into multiple particles, allowing them to be easily absorbed. Fortunately, cataract removal surgery has come a long way. 1
The most pivotal discoveries regarding treatment have been made during the last 60 years. Here, we discuss just a few of the milestones that have revolutionized modern cataracts treatment along the way. 1
Discovered near the Saqqara pyramid 19 miles south of Cario, Egypt, archaeologists unearthed the oldest-known tomb of a pharaonic surgeon. In it, they found roughly 30 bronze surgical tools used by the ancient doctor. The surgeon used a lancet to push the clouded lens backward into the vitreous body of the eye. This technique, known as “couching”, was the procedure of choice for thousands of years until 1748, when the French doctor Daviel performed the first known cataract extraction. 2
This “couching” technique was replaced by cataract extraction surgery. The lens was now removed by suction through a hollow bronze oral suction instrument. The procedure is attributed to a 2nd-century Greek physician. 2
Modern cataract surgery involving IOL (intraocular lens) implantation did not occur until the mid-20th century, when Dr. Harold Ridley was inspired to research replacing inner eye lenses with a material known as polymethyl methacrylate. His first attempts were largely unsuccessful but ultimately, he established the use of implants to replace the eye’s natural lens. 1
In 1967, Charles Kelman developed phacoemulsification, a method of cataract removal that uses ultrasonic vibrations to break up a cataract into small particles, which are then removed with a small probe. While this technology was groundbreaking, a larger opening still needed to be made in the eye in order to properly insert an IOL. 3
The first foldable implant was implanted in the human eye in 1978 by Kai-yi Zhou. This implant was made from silicone and could be rolled to easily fit inside smaller openings in the eye without creating larger incisions needed by traditional IOLs. 4
In 1986, Patricia Bath, an ophthalmologist and laser scientist, invented the laserphaco probe. This technology was revolutionary, and it is still used worldwide today. The use of a laserphaco probe during cataract removal surgery helped Dr. Bath recover the sight of patients who had been blind for over 30 years. 5
Thanks to the innovations of many ophthalmologists, lens implants now boast a 98% success rate. 1 With 25 million Americans currently living with cataracts, cataract removal surgeries have become one of the most common, and most effective surgical procedures in the United States. 6
Luckily, there are ways to keep your eyes cataract-free or slow their development. Scheduling yearly eye exams is one way to spot cataract signs early. In addition, studies suggest eating well should help; foods high in antioxidants, vitamin C and E may help ward off cataract development. And don’t forget to wear sunglasses! 7 Taking simple steps can help ensure cataracts don’t become part of your personal history.