Fillers One hundred years ago

Ophthalmology in Spain

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: (Published 20 May 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:1391

Many travellers in Spain have been struck by the number of blind persons everywhere met with. Dr. Camuset, writing in 1874, said that the streets of the large towns literally swarm with blind folk. They go about in bands of five or six, begging, and rolling about their sightless orbs to excite compassion. For the most part the blindness is caused by purulent ophthalmia or affections of the cornea consecutive to granular ophthalmia. A few years later Dr. Vignes in a trip to San Sebastian saw a number of cases of granular ophthalmia and many of keratitis, which he attributed to the bad food and filthy habits of life of the inhabitants of the whole province of Guypuzcoa. Professor Hirschberg, of Berlin, who was present at the International Congress of Hygiene held in Madrid in 1897, bore emphatic witness to the prevalence of eye diseases in Spain. Nowhere, not even in Egypt, had he met with so many blind persons as in Spain; among other instances he mentioned that he had seen a band of musicians consisting of nine blind men. He attributed this state of things to the neglect of ophthalmology in Spain, where he said there was not a single professor of the subject in any of the medical schools. He added that there was no public institute for the treatment of diseases of the eye, and that such cases were treated either in the general hospitals or in small private institutions. (BMJ 1900;ii:947)