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Opthamology, from the Greek for "eye thought" is the medical specialty dealing with the anatomy, physiology and diseases of the eyes. A specialist in the field is called an opthamologist. Most opthamologists also operate on the eye and have to be skilled in surgery.

The seeds of opthamology were developed in India in about 800 B.C.E. when the physician Sushruta wrote a treatise on 76 diseases of the eye. Sushruta also performed the first known surgery to remove cataracts. Western medicine took a great deal of time to catch up as the ancient Greeks based their beliefs about the eye on logic rather than empirical evidence. They believed there were tubes connecting the eye to the brain. However, further developments were made by Islamic physicians in the 11th century C.E. when Ibn al-Haytham wrote on optics and guessed the function of the retina. Soon after, Ibn al-Nafis discovered how bad vision in one eye affected vision in a good eye, as well as an early treatment for glaucoma. By the 17th century C.E., glasses were being used to correct vision and other lenses were used to improve it. Surgical procedures started to be developed in the early 19th century. The modern medical speciality is traced to the establishment of a dedicated eye hospital in London, England in 1805, soon followed by the Institute of Opthamology, which is now part of University College.

Opthamologists undergo a four-year residency after completing an internship in surgery, internal medicine or pediatrics. It has numerous sub-specialties:

  • The Anterior Segment (cornea, iris and eye lens)
  • Cataract treatment and surgery
  • The cornea alone
  • Glaucoma
  • Medical retina - treatment of the retina without surgery
  • Neuro-opthamology, relating to the optic nerve and other nerves near the eye
  • Ocular oncology
  • Oculoplastics, or the use of plastics to replace parts of the eye
  • Opthalmic pathology
  • Pediatric opthamology, such as treatment of mis-alignment
  • Refractive surgery (laser eye surgery to correct vision)
  • Uveitis
  • Opthalmic immunology
  • The Posterior Segment, the vitreous humor and retina

Along with House's diagnostic department, Opthamology is one of the departments at Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital that consistently loses money.

In The Socratic Method, the patient's planned (but cancelled) trip to an opthamologist led House to the correct diagnosis.

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