The specialty of the eye is of comparatively recent origin.
To show how little attention medical men paid to the eye and how little they knew about it as late a time as fifty years ago, the story is told by one of the early American oculists that a patient consulted him with a cinder in the eye. It had been there long enough so that inflammation and ulceration had set in. The oculist asked him in astonishment why he had not consulted a physician.
“I did,” replied the patient, mentioning the name of a general practitioner. “Three visits.”
“What did he do for you?”
“Gave me three rounds of castor oil.”
Barbarous and ignorant that may seem to us today. But, curiously, a very modern oculist still advises castor oil for the treatment of cinder in the eye. But in the eye itself, not by mouth!
It doesn’t take a very large cinder to make itself known on the eyeball. When it starts working it sets up an irritative reflex which results in an outpouring of tearsNature’s attempt to wash it out. The eye is constantly secreting tears, and ordinarily they are carried away by a minute drain pipe in the corner of the eye next to the nose, and flow into the nose cavity. But when the cinder starts operations the tears are produced in too great quantities for the capacity of this drain, and overflow onto the cheekan easily apparent signal of distress.
Important in attempting to relieve such a sufferer is absolute surgical cleanliness. For this reason a drop of castor oil in the eye is advised by Dr. Henry S. Gardie (in Health and Life Series, published by Reilly & Lee, Chicago). The oil is heavy enough so that it frequently carries the cinder to the corner of the eye, where it can easily be removed.
If this does not work, roll a clean piece of surgical cotton on a toothpick or match and dip it into sterile boric acid solution. Cinders usually lodge in the upper lid, so that should be rolled back over the toothpick and, if the cinder can be seen, deftly picked off on the moistened cotton.
If unsuccessful this way you have done all that is safe in the way of household surgery. In such a case, or if the cinder is embedded on the glassy part of the eyeball, get a doctor, who will deaden the eyeball and locate the cinder with a magnifying glass and so remove it easily.
From the average amount of dust and dirt that inevitably get in it, the eye cleans itself automatically. You go to bed tired after an automobile ride, and when you wake up you find a good deal of encrustation in the corner of your eye. If you examined that under a microscope you would find all the dust and oily secretion and dried tears which the journey produced accumulated there.