Medical Care for eye infection around 1880 : LUSENET : San Francisco History : One Thread

My Grandfather lost the vision in one eye sometime around 1880 and the doctor told him it was because of rubbing his eye. How can I learn more about the medical care he would have received and the doctors in practice in SF at that time?

-- Jan Collins (, November 23, 2003


There are a tremendous amount of medical ailments that try to overcome you when you reach your 80s. Many many people today in their 80s have to have cataract eye surgery to clear up the cloudiness. This is where the lens of the eye is removed and a piece of clear plastic is replaced instead. They did not have or even dream of such an operation in the 1880s. In fact, the operation wasn't even possible until the mid 70s and then started getting more routine in the 80s. Your grandfather if he lived long enough would surely have had cataracts. He also might have had I think what's called Retinitis Pigmentosa which is eye degeneration that will lead to blindness. I think there's another disease that causes blindness where the fluid of the eye stops functioning. That could have caused itching and thus rubbing. I hope all of you retirees can afford medical insurnace because many seniors I know can no longer afford it and Kaiser is going up even higher next year to $200 per night instead of a $500 unlimited fee. And there meds are going much higher as well.

There were hordes of doctors in SF in the 1880s though some of the treatment was about as good as witchcraft. I just happened to have a list of doctors sometime before the 1880s some of which were probably still here in the 1880s. Keep in mind that my list does not distinguish between regular medical doctors or optometrists or other types of doctors though I could probably find out which they were if you needed. Here is the list: Dr. Jones Dr. Wallace Dr. A. J. Bowie Dr. Smiley Dr. Enscoe Dr. Robinson Dr. Denn Dr. Gates Dr. Calvert Dr. Holden Dr. W. C. Parker

Stout H.M. Gray S. R. Gerry Bertody McMillan Coit S. R. Harris Turnbull Tewksbury Bennett Mackintosh Rowell

Stackpole May Sturtevant Megguier West Forbes White Whitfield Trescott Gihon Franklin Grover Barstow Gates Shuler Morgan D. S. Smith Parker O'Brien Morrison Pierce Moore Miller Dupuytren Badarous Cole Whitney Eckel Toland Sawyer Bruner Burgess Fourgeaud

-- Harry Murphy (harrymurphy*, November 26, 2003.

My father had cataract surgery at U.C Medical Center in San Francisco during World War II in 1944. He was in the hospital for 10 days and had to lie still for that entire time with sandbags on both sides of his head. He had to wear contact lenses after that for the rest of his life which was to 1974. He really disliked those contacts as they were big hunks of glass. He nick named them, "My Rocks."

His son, that's me, had cataract surgery in the late 1990s. For both operations, I was in the hospital for less than 3 hours each time. They then inserted permanent lenses which are to last a lifetime. Both surgeries worked out very well and I am very pleased. In fact my vision, with glasses, is 20/15. My doctor says, " Your vision is better than perfect." I think he was just trying to make me feel even better than I really feel. Oh, yes, I wanted to drive home myself after both surgeries but they discouraged this.

Between Medicare and my secondary health care provider all the costs were taken care of. So it was no burden on me financially.

My only reason for this posting was to let you young folks out there to not be afraid of this surgery. I am told that all of you, if you live long enough, will need this surgery.


-- Frank Grant (, November 26, 2003.

Yes if you live long enough, you will need eye cataract surgery as well as several others including prostrate surgery. Something to look forward to isn't it?

Interesting that your father had cataract surgery in 1944. They were probably doing experimental surgery or perhaps not implanting an actual lens in the eye. From what I was told, they didn't even have implant lenses available until 1949 and that many of the surgeries attempted up until the late 70s failed more times than succeeded. Better microsurgical techniques and better quality lens material at that time resulted in greater success.

-- Harry Murphy (harrymurphy*, November 27, 2003.

Harry, thank you for your comments. You are absolutely correct,they didn't know what implants were back in the 40s. You mentioned prostate surgery. This is,of course, changing the subject a bit but I was diagnosed with prostate cancer early in 2000,a fairly advanced case. Well, we caught it in time. After a DRE and a PSA,the only sure way of diagnosing this cancer is a biopsy.

I opted for radiation treatment, there were a few other options but this one seemed the least invasive. It entailed going to the hospital 5 times a week for 7 weeks and getting massive doses of radiation at the correct spot. The side effects were horrific at first but after a short period of time they went away and I feel great now and lead a very normal life. My urologist gave me another 15 years to live, that would put me up in the 90 year old category. I wonder if he used a crystal ball?

Some of you might not know what those initials mean. DRE is that infamous digital rectal exam and PSA is a simple blood test. The important thing for you guys out there, especially in the age bracket of about 50 years, is to have a physical every year. It could well save your life.

Sorry to pontificate on this subject, but it is an important message. To the woman in your life it is extremely important.

-- Frank Grant (, December 03, 2003.

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