What is this bizarre Indian "health gadget" from 1950s Bombay?

Crate-digging for old records on eBay, my brother found this bizarre health gadget identified as having been produced in Bombay in the 1950s. The seller writes:

Very rare and old Twin Transilluminator in Box from India 1950 in good condition. Its medical Instrument for sinuses and Eye therapy. Its made of steel and backlit. its electrical. on box has some description and photos about how to use this Instrument. Its rare and unique medical Instrument and must for medical instruments collectors. The size of box is 9 inch in length, and its width is 5 inch.

What the heck is the history behind this gizmo? More photos below.


  1. Aaaaaiiiiiigggggh…I’m still trying to scrub this one out of my imagination from last week!  You’re welcome.

    1. I used to do that with a paperclip when I was a greasy teenager. It’s amazing to see the sebum oozing out of your skin like a crop of earthworms. It’s pretty gross, but you feel alot cleaner once your pores are empty again. There’s something creepily satisfying about squeezing zits.

      1. I watched several of these in a row; it was fascinating, like watching a snake charming performance.  I simply had no idea that blackheads could get that large on a human being, or have so much sebum packed in behind them.  My skin tends to be dry, always has been.  After about an hour of those videos, I walked quickly to the bathroom and just stared at my face, fingers searching every inch, ‘Mirror, mirror, on the wall… tell me I’m the most zit-free of all?!’  As I said, ‘Aaaaaiiiiiigh’.

        I go to see a gal every three or four months for a facial.  She told me she got into that profession because she loooooves to clean out clogged pores.  I’ve since found new respect for her skill set.

        1. My dad has a single, enormous blackhead on his eyebrow. It looks like he was stabbed with a pencil and the lead broken off in his skin. The blackhead is older than my teenage kid. I have a hard time talking to him without reaching over & giving it a hard squeeze.

  2. Trans-sinusl ultrasound. No, that’s not it. It appears to shine light inside the sinuses so doctor can check it out and make a diagnosis.

  3. This is a diagnostic, not a therapeutic, instrument. It’s basically two flashlights.

    “Transillumination” is the technique of shining a light directly through an organ or space to see how opaque it is. As illustrated in the picture of the woman above, transilluminating the frontal sinuses, located behind your eyebrows, will tell you if one of them is plugged up with mucus or pus (sorry), and help diagnose a sinus infection. You can try it yourself with a penlight in a dark room with a mirror.

    A hydrocele is a fluid collection in the scrotum; transillumination tells you it’s actually just benign fluid and not a solid tumor. Similarly it helps distinguish between fluid-filled breast cysts and solid breast tumors.

    1.  This.  I’ve had a doctor use an otoscope on my maxillary sinuses for this purpose.  Hey, it was handy.

    2.  Hit the nail on the head. The pictures make it pretty clear. Though it’s interesting that they make the poor lady put the whole thing in her mouth to transilluminate the maxillary sinuses. We are taught to place the light outside toward the sinus and then look in the mouth for the light, not the other way round.

  4. Transilluminators still exist.  They are/were made (in this case) to shine light through normally-opaque body tissue, to show the underlying structures.  Simple Google search FTW, folks.

  5. The Esler was industry standard for transilluminating your twin.  What they don’t tell you is, do not use on a triplet.  I’m gonna miss that guy.

  6. I think perhaps it is not a bizarre health gadget, but a slightly more convenient diagnostic tool… In med school, you are taught how to illuminate the sinuses by shining a penlight under the orbital walls of the eyes, in the mouth, cheeks, etc.  This device seems to try to make that easier so you can directly compare size/illumination of multiple areas simultaneously.  You can also check pupillary reaction (though there is a greater need to illuminate one pupil at a time rather than both simultaneously- perhaps not the case in medicine when this was made) and can likely aid in estimating the depth of the anterior chambers of the eye.  It seems like it is a glorified double penlight! 

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