What Is a Glass Eye Prosthesis?

A glass eye, also commonly known as a prosthetic or artificial eye, approximates the look of a natural one and aids anyone who has lost an eye. An artificial eye can not only offer a very natural appearance, but can also help to preserve vision in the good eye, which may be at risk of inflammation affecting it as well.

There are a variety of things you should know about artificial eyes and how to care for them.

Man holding an artificial eye
A prostetic eye can closely resemble a natural one. Peter Arildsson / EyeEm / Getty Images

When Is a Glass Eye Needed?

Removal of an eye is something that must be seriously discussed and the circumstances of each case weighed. Common factors that may lead up to this include:

The decision to remove an eye usually requires a detailed discussion with the doctor in which all options are first explored. Sometimes this is done because the sight in the affected eye has already been lost to a disease like glaucoma or to an infection, such as endophthalmitis, while the eye itself is causing pain.

In some other cases, such as an eye with tumors, the eye may still have sight but must be removed in order to save a person’s life. Or, the eye may need to be removed to save the sight in the still healthy eye.

Eye removal surgery can be done in different ways. The process of removing the entire globe is called enucleation. All connections to the orbit, including the optic nerve, are severed. With this approach, the eye muscles are attached to the artificial globe to enable tandem movement with the natural eye.

Enucleation is among the oldest eye procedures. It has actually been performed since 2600 B.C.

If the outer portion of the eye including the white sclera, colored iris, and clear cornea are left intact and just the inside of the eye is removed, this is known as evisceration. Regardless of the approach, many have concerns about what the outcome may be.

Having an artificial eye implanted after eye removal supports physical and mental well-being.

What Is a Glass Eye?

While many commonly refer to artificial eyes as glass ones this is actually a misnomer these days. Instead of glass, these eyes are made of acrylic material. A custom mold of the socket can first be made to ensure a proper fit. This includes being able to blink properly as well as move the artificial eye.

A stock iris that closely resembles the colored portion of the person’s other eye, complete with details such as the pupil and other eye markings drawn in here or silk fibers used to simulate veins can be created.

This can then be attached to a unit that is specially molded to fit the orbit. Once in place, the end result can effectively mimic the other eye.

With a good fitting, an artificial eye can last decades.

Benefits

You don’t need a prosthetic eye. Unfortunately, it will not help to restore sight. A patch is also an option. However, the eyes are what many may notice most about a person and are considered a gauge of attractiveness. Many find that getting an artificial eye implanted can:

  • Improve patient aesthetics
  • Restore and maintain the shape of the surrounding tissues
  • Provide a sense of physical and mental well-being
  • Allow for proper eyelid movements
  • Lower incidence of ulceration

Implanting a Glass Eye

The artificial eye will not be put in place immediately, however. The socket first needs a chance to heal after eye removal and for swelling to resolve. Only after about six to eight weeks, once this is fully healed, will you be ready to be fitted for the artificial eye.

Although the implant has no sight, it will during this process be attached to the six eye muscles. This will allow you to move the artificial eye along with your other eye.

Caring for a Glass Eye

Once you have an artificial eye, it will have to be maintained on a regular basis.

You will need to meet with an ocularist to properly clean and polish the artificial eye once or twice a year and to make sure it continues to fit comfortably.

Cleaning the Prosthesis

While cleaning the prosthesis will usually be handled by your ocularist, once you feel comfortable you will be able to do some of this on your own about every three weeks.

After removing the artificial eye, rub it with your fingers under a stream of warm water. Dry it with a soft cloth and reinsert the eye. If you feel soap is needed, use only mild soap, making sure nothing abrasive or irritating is used.

Making It Comfortable.

If regularly maintained, the artificial eye should fit comfortably. Your oculist can make any needed adjustments at the start.

If you feel dryness or irritation, use lubricating eye drops. One modification is that instead of dropping the eye drops onto the eye, you squeeze the drops onto a finger and then wipe them on the surface of the artificial eye.

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Article Sources
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