Losing an eye is a traumatic experience for anyone. For various reasons, people around the world might be forced to have one of their eyes removed. Seeing with only one eye can be difficult, as it negatively affects your depth perception and your eye’s focus. Beyond difficulties seeing, losing an eye can also mean you have a gaping eye socket with nothing in it.
Because of modern prosthetic science, those who have lost an eye no longer have to suffer from having an empty sey socket. There are prosthetics for eyes just like there are prosthetics for arms and legs that can look almost as real as the healthy eye. An artificial eye is created to match its partner, with the ultimate goal of concealing the fact that the person is missing an eye.
Getting a prosthetic eye is a pretty amazing feat of modern technology, but it requires some maintenance and proper care for the person receiving the eye. We’re going to help you grasp some basics about how to properly care for a prosthetic eye.
In what follows, we’ll do a quick overview of the purpose of an artificial eye, and then explain how to clean, polish, replace, and protect your faux eye. Let’s get started.
Purpose of a Prosthetic Eye
A prosthetic eye is not for fun--let’s get that out of the way. You may have seen pirates in movies or people dressed as them at Halloween parties sporting an eye patch. An eye patch, for most of human history, was the only real way of dealing with the loss of an eye. Rather than being a cool symbol, it was actually a handicap. Eye patches are bandages and concealers!
But in our day, amazing ocularists can have prosthetic eyes whipped up in a matter of weeks. The point of these is to mimic your natural eye so that someone who is looking at you doesn’t notice you’re missing an eye. It’s that simple.
In some prosthetics, not only does the artificial part look like the original, but it also can function like it, too. Alas, with prosthetic eyes, no advancements have been made yet to restore sight to an eye once it’s lost. A prosthetic is simply a cosmetic device meant to fill in the now-empty eye socket and try to make people not notice any problem.
However, a good prosthetic eye can do at least one function of the original: it can track with the other eye. By attaching the old tissues and nerves to the marble implant of the new, artificial eye, the muscles around the new eye can still move it in league with the healthy partner eye. Amazing!
No one ever gets a prosthetic eye happily. Most users of prosthetic eyes have had cancer, received some trauma to the eye, or have had their blind eye grow diseased and sickly looking. Removal of an eye is a last resort because keeping even a blind eye at least looks more natural than having to get a false one made up.
Knowing what kind of substance you’re dealing with will help you maintain and take care of your prosthetic eye.
Most people know that prosthetic eyes are made from glass. However, they probably wrongly assume it’s the same kind of glass used in your window or glass cup. That’s not quite right. Instead, prosthetic eyes utilize a much harder material: acrylic glass. Acrylic glass is the kind you’ve probably heard referred to as plexiglass.
There are some other forms of prosthetic eyes that consist of a silicone polymer, but these are less common.
So now that we know the purpose of a prosthetic eye let’s discuss how to properly care for one.
You may be surprised to know that prosthetic eyes need cleaning. Shouldn’t it just be installed and--poof!--all done? Why clean it?
Well, the truth is that your eye socket may secrete some discharge over time. Secretions can attract bacteria and can be problematic. Because of this, a good cleaning is prudent to reduce the risk of infection.
To clean your eye, you first have to master removing it from your eye socket, which is quite the task for a newbie.
Every prosthetic eye has two parts. The first part is the implant, which stays in while you clean it. The other is the shell-like part, which is the actual prosthetic. This is the part you’re cleaning. It has the mimicked look of your other healthy eye.
To remove the prosthetic, make sure you clean your hands with soap. Then, lay down a soft surface below you in front of the mirror. That’s just in case the prosthetic falls out of your hand. You don’t want to mark it or scratch it.
Then get your extractor, which is a small pen-like tool with a flat, pointy edge that’s designed to leverage out your prosthetic from your eye socket. Pull down your lower eyelid, place the extractor under the lower edge of the prosthetic, and prop it out of there, being gentle the entire time.
Once you get it out of the eye socket, then you can do two different things: clean around the eye socket, and then clean the actual eye.
You want to get some sterilized water (you could boil it) and dip a hand towel or gauze into it. Then, you can clean around your eye socket to remove any discharge. For your eye, you can use some warm water and some very mild soap. Clean your eye thoroughly. Don’t leave any soap residue--that’ll sting when you put it back!
A prosthetic eye can’t handle any strong detergents or chemicals, so don’t use those. Stick with something mild.
To put back your prosthetic eye, reverse the removal process with the extractor. Place the fake eye into the top part of the eyelid while holding down the lower lid. It should go right back into place.
Cleaning isn’t all. To make sure your eye remains effective, you need to get regular polishings at your doctor. Doctors recommend that this happens every year or so. It may seem like a lot, but it’s worth it. Bringing your eye in for a yearly polishing can make it look real, and it also provides an opportunity for your doctor to evaluate if you need to adjust the eye size or shape.
The ocularist will polish any scratches or dents out of the acrylic glass material and then give it right back to you that day. It makes it a pretty easy task to get these polished quickly.
Most things need replacing after extended use, and the same is true for prosthetic eyes. Due to typical wear and tear and the changing shapes of eye sockets, most eye doctors recommend you replace your prosthetic every five to seven years.
Now you may take such good care of yours and think you can make it last longer--by all means, give it a shot. These are just “manufacturer’s recommendations.” With the advent of 3D printing, the process of getting a new one made has become a lot easier, too.
A significant way to take care of your eye is by merely protecting it and your other one. When you can, it’s advisable to wear glasses. Glasses provide an extra barrier between you and any flying objects or liquids that might ruin your prosthetic eye.
Being very gentle with your eye as you clean it, have it polished, or get a new one is paramount to ensuring the longevity of your eye.
Not to mention the fact that, since you only have one working eye left, you need to make sure you’re protecting that eye, as well.
Ocularists recommend only using glasses if you have astigmatism in your healthy eye. This is because the use of contact lenses is too risky! Infections happen occasionally when people use lenses, and you don’t want to lose your last eye just because you can’t stand wearing eyeglasses. Eye problems are far worse when you only have one, so stick to glasses.
Quite the Eye-Full
It’s never an easy thing losing a part of your body. The process of healing from this trauma can take time. One part of letting go is accepting a prosthetic replacement of that body part, which is also not easy. But on a practical level, having it will make life easier, as people will not necessarily notice your missing or damaged eye first.
Keeping a prosthetic eye doesn’t have to be a complicated process as long as you stay on top of cleaning and maintaining it. To that end, we’ve provided you with some of these helpful tips for how to properly care for a prosthetic eye.