Medical Treatments

Ophthalmologist

Ophthalmology deals with the anatomy, physiology and diseases of the eye, a branch of medicine.  Physiology is the scientific study of functions in living things.  Ophthalmologists are both medical and surgical specialists and are physicians who have completed their medical training as well as five years post graduate study to obtain a FRACO qualification in Australia.  The word ophthalmology comes from the Greek words opthalmos “the eye” and logia “the study of”.  It is used in human and veterinary science as human and animal eyes are actually very similar with the differences generally lying in the way the eyes are placed and the shape of the head rather than differences in the eye itself.  The disease processes are almost identical in humans and animals although the prevalence is different.  Conditions like cataracts are not seen as much in animals for example as they are not a long living in most cases as humans are.  Where they are long lived, cataracts are seen.

Ophthalmology has a long history.  The Indian surgeon Susruta described 76 eye diseases in 800BC.  He also detailed surgical techniques and instruments and described cataract surgery for the first time.  Aristotle (384 – 322BC) dissected the eyes of animals and was the first to note that the eye had three layers, not two as was first thought.  By the 17th and 18th century, opthamologist in Melbourne were using hand lenses, preparations for fixing the eye (cycloplegiac agents) and microscopes.  These tools allowed the detailed study of the eye to a degree that had not been possible before.  The first flap operation for treatment of cataract surgery was performed in this period by the Austrian Georg Joseph Beer.  This technique is still in practice today.  In 1805 the first dedicated ophthalmic hospital was opened in London to become (and still today) the largest in the world.  This facility was renamed the Moorfields Eye Hospital and it is still a centre for research.

In 1851 the ophthalmoscope was invented by Herman Von Helmholtz.  This is a handheld device that allows the inspection of the retina and vitreous humor of the eye to determine the health of these structures at 15 times magnification.  The vitreous humor is a clear gel that fills the space between the lens and the retina of the eye.  The retina is the light sensitive layer of tissue lining the inner surface of the eye.  The best laser eye surgery in Melbourne came in the late 60’s and the early 1970’s.  The Polish head of the Faculty and Clinic of Ophthalmology in Warsaw, Dr Zofia Falkowska used them in her practice between 1963 and 1976. Laser vision correction or LASIK is used regularly today to correct refractive errors where the eye is not focussing light properly and is causing blurred vision.  Modern techniques have improved the rate of complications and local anaesthesia has made these procedures relatively painless for patients.  Laser vision correction is usually performed as a day surgery and offers a 90% success rate with many patients regaining 20/20 or perfect vision.