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5 of the Most Painful Medical Treatments of the Middle Ages

Medical History | February 28, 2017

The Middle Ages was an era full of interesting history, profoundly rich art, revolutionizing philosophy, some epic heroes, and even a bit of magic. Nonetheless, it was not a very pleasant time to be a medical patient. The medicine during this period was basic, but the terrible illness that plagued this time was complex. This eventually led to the invention of some very excruciating and atrocious medical treatments.

EYE SURGERY
In the early days of the Middle Ages, operating surgeons used a painful process they called “Needling” to perform cataract surgery. A thick flat needle is used, which a doctor would actually push directly into the edge of an individual’s cornea, without anesthetics, perhaps except for a cup of bitter red wine.

The idea of this technique was to push the eye's opaque lens back into the lowest part, resulting to have a clear pupil. The ailing patient, however was left with an unfocused eye, like some sort of a camera with no lens. This would only allow a person to be able to read the huge letters that are found in modern eye tests. Not exactly useful to read a book, but enough to be able to plow a field.
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METALLIC CATHETERS
In medieval times, catheters were used to alleviate painful urinary diseases. There was a lack of antibiotics during those days and a surplus of some venereal viruses such as syphilis, caused many people to suffer from the woes of blocked bladders. There is a medieval catheter that consisted of a metal tube, that was painfully inserted into the urethra, then through the bladder. When this tube could not access the bladder of the patient, doctors used other equally painful alternatives.

Common kidney stone treatment involves a physician’s assistant actually sitting on top of you, while your legs are ridiculously strapped to your neck. This assistant would hold you very tight, while the physician inserts two fingers up your rectum, then press a fist hard against your pubes until the time he finds a hard pellet that would be considered a stone. The stone then will be extracted through a patient’s bladder with the use of a sharp instrument.
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ST. FIACRE'S ILLNESS
St. Fiacre is also known as the “patron of hemorrhoids.” There is a tale that says, St. Fiacre-- a seventh century Irish monk, first suffered from the disease, then sat upon a hard rock and miraculously got cured of his illness. Afterwhich, the rock was known as St. Fiacre’s Rock. There were some medieval doctors who believed this and would advise their patients to sit on this famous rock for a few hours to be cured.

However useless, it was not as painful as what other doctors who are less superstitious would tell their patients. Those who are more scientific would insert a red-hot iron tube inside and up the person’s rectum and then call it a day.
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TREPANNING
Trepanning is among the surgical procedure that consisted of drilling or boring a hole into the human skull. Painfully though, this hole exposes the dura mater, which is an outer membrane of the brain, that the physicians would use to treat a bunch of different health problems.

The doctors of the Middle Ages used this to treat illnesses like epilepsy, migraines, and a lot of other mental disorders. If somebody was suffering from depression, a little hole would be done to the head. Unfortunately, that tiny hole to the head usually exposed the brain to airborne germs, that causes fatality to patients.
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BLOODLETTING
Bloodletting was very common back then as our cold medicine today. A person with a mild headache and a sore throat would usually be treated by a physician through opening a vein with a lancet, and just let the blood flow into a container. Bloodletting was very common in that era, that even barbers started offering the service, with stylish trims and shaves on the side. Some individuals would have the treatment many times in a year, as a way of maintaining health.
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