An artificial eye (ocular prosthesis) is a concave shell made from unbreakable acrylic resin or cryolite glass.
Artificial eyes are intricately painted to match a natural eye. While they look very real, they do not allow the wearer to see.
The eye sits over the implant, held in place by the eyelids, and can be removed and replaced by the individual wearing it.
When the natural eye moves, muscles move the implant, and the artificial eye sitting above it moves too. The degree of movement depends on previous treatment and the type of implant used. Up-down movement tends to be better than side to side.
There are two types of artificial eye:
- Custom fit eyes
- Pre-made (stock) eyes
Custom Fit Eyes
Some eyes are made to fit an individual. An impression is taken of the eye socket, and a wax mould made from this shape to produce the prosthesis. The iris (coloured ring) and sclera (white part) are hand painted to match the natural eye. Lastly, it is polished to look bright and shiny.
Pre-Made (Stock) Eyes
Many children receive a “stock eye”, a pre-made shell trimmed to fit the child. Most are pre-painted while others are hand painted to match the child’s remaining eye.
Visiting the Ocularist
An ocularist completes all steps in the process of making an artificial eye.
An ocular prosthetist takes an impression, makes the mould for a custom fit eye, creates the colour match and adjusts the final eye for best fit, or adjusts a stock eye, but does not necessarily carry out all steps in the eye-making process.
If the eye is custom fit, you will meet several times with the ocularist while your child’s eye is being made. You may also meet repeatedly if a stock eye is hand painted for your child.
At general appointments, your child’s eye will be removed, cleaned, checked for any abrasions or deposits, and polished. If a new eye is needed, an impression may be taken to make the mould.
The appointment is an opportunity to express any concerns you have about your child’s eye, and ask questions. If you have problems with your child’s eye between appointments, contact your ocularist for advice and support.
This young girl pictured below has an artificial eye following enucleation for retinoblastoma. Can you tell which eye is artificial?
A snug fit
Artificial eyes sit in the socket behind the eyelids. They should not fall out during normal everyday activities, but occasionally they may become dislodged.
A temporary eye may fall out as swelling recedes after surgery, losing the previously snug fit. The eye may also become dislodged during a growth spurt, when the eye becomes loose. Very physical activities or rubbing the eye can cause this to happen.
The eye may be dislodged by recurrence of cancer in the socket. This usually occurs within 1-2 years of surgery.
Most often, an eye comes out because it is physically removed by the inquisitive child.
Comfort and fit of the eye will vary over time, affected by colds, stress, puberty, menopause and other changes. If the eye does pop out by accident, make an appointment with the ocularist to see if a build up, new eye or visit to the ophthalmologist is needed.