Cataracts, the clouding over of a normally clear lens in the eye, are quite common in those over the age of 80. Surgery for cataracts today is easy — at least compared to the horrifying methods that were used during the thousands of years that no one was actually sure what cataracts were.

Cataracts are caused by gaining proteins in the lens clumping together, which causes cloudy vision. Today, doctors are able to operate on cataracts using only a tiny incision of 2-3 millimeters to reach the lens. They then break up the cataract using ultrasound before removing it. They can then give the patient a brand new, artificial lens.

Back in the day, though, medical professionals weren’t so…well, professional. All of these early surgeries included stabbing a sharp object into the eye without anesthesia, and some of them included other weird steps (sprinkling breast milk into the eye?). None of these surgeries actually ended up working, and many of them resulted in blindness.

Still though, doctors kept poking around, literally, until they found the correct way to take out cataracts. Watch the video for more details on creepy surgeries, what happens when you push your lens around, and what WWII fighter pilots have to do with cataract surgery.