Ophthalmology and Ayurveda

In an article on Sushruta, father of Ayurvedic surgery, Thomas Harbin MD (writing for the American Academy of Ophthalmology) rightly acknowledges, “A conscientious surgeon considers the patient as a whole” while acknowledging the pioneering techniques by Ayurveda thousands of years before modem ophthalmology.eye health ophthalmology and ayurveda

While the Ayurvedic practitioners at Roots of Wellness Ayurveda are prevented from treating eye conditions by Colorado health law, we can and do offer our clients important information about self-care for eye health including herbal eye washes, medicated ghee application, and eye exercises to improve vision and address eye conditions. Learn more about our practitioners, our services, or schedule today.

We are pleased that a major Academy recognizes the importance of Ayurveda in the history of medicine, specifically regarding cataract surgery:

Who started us on the path of cataract surgery? We’re probably familiar with the remarkable number of pioneers in the past 70 years, beginning with Sir Harold Ridley and continuing to present times with a large group who have pushed cataract surgery into becoming one of the most successful operations of present times. Giving due credit to those living and dead to whom we owe thanks is beyond the scope of this article. But who deserves credit for being the first to perform any type of cataract operation?

Many ophthalmologists, especially those familiar with the history of medicine in India, give credit to Sushruta (also spelled Susruta). Most historians place the time of his life to 600 BC and he lived in Benares, a city on the banks of the river Ganges. He wrote a treatise on surgery called the Sushruta Samhita, only one copy of which is extant today. It was written in Sanskrit and largely unknown to medical historians of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

According to Dr. Shridhar Dwivedi, the Sushruta Samhita contains 184 chapters with descriptions of over 1100 illnesses, 700 medicinal plants and numerous other medicinal preparations. He described diabetes and angina, linking angina to obesity and recommending exercise for diabetics.1

Dr. V.K. Raju, Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at West Virginia University, notes that the Samhita had eighteen chapters devoted to the eye and described seventy-six different ocular diseases, many of which required surgery. Most notably, Sushruta was the first to perform cataract surgery by couching.2

Consider this scenario. What would you do? The family leads a bilaterally blind person to you. The vision is likely hand motions at best, and the patient can neither get around independently nor see food on the plate. Life expectancy is severely limited. You see two white reflexes through un-dilated pupils. What can be done? You have no slit lamp, no tonometer, no anesthetic or dilating drops and no surgery center. Do you let this patient go home to die or try to do something?

Indeed, a conscientious surgeon considers the patient as a whole.

Read the complete article by Thomas Harbin MD at the American Academy of Ophthalmology here.


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