A prosthetic eye can help improve the appearance of people who have lost an eye to injury or disease. It's commonly called a "glass eye" or "fake eye." It's not really an eye, but a shell that covers the structures in the eye socket.
The prosthetic eye includes:
- oval, whitish outer shell finished to duplicate the white color of the other eye
- round, central portion painted to look like the iris and pupil of the other eye
Implanting a prosthetic eye (ocular prosthesis) is almost always recommended after an eye is surgically removed due to damage or disease. This implant supports proper eyelid functioning.
Some of the reasons why an eye may be removed are:
- infection inside the eye
- eye tumors
Types of Surgery
There are two surgical methods for removing a damaged eye. The type of surgery you have will affect the selection of a prosthetic eye. The two methods are:
Evisceration. In this method, the jelly-like inside of the eye is suctioned out. This is done through an incision in the front of the eye. But the procedure preserves tissues in the:
- outer eye
- eye socket (orbit)
Enucleation. In this method, the entire eye (the globe-like "eyeball") is cut away and removed from the eye socket.
Your doctor will decide which method to use based on:
- type of eye condition you have
- degree of damage to the eye
Why Is a Prosthetic Eye Used?
A prosthetic eye can improve the appearance of the affected eye socket. For most people it is vastly preferable to wearing an eye patch or bandage.
If the entire eye is removed, an ocular implant and prosthesis prevent the tissues in the eye socket from growing to fill the empty space.
A prosthetic eye cannot restore vision. After removal of the natural eye and placement of a prosthetic eye, a person will have no vision in that eye.
What Is a Prosthetic Eye Made of?
At one time a "glass eye" was really made of glass. Today, a prosthetic eye is generally made of hard, plastic acrylic. The prosthetic eye is shaped like a shell.
The prosthetic eye fits over an ocular implant. The ocular implant is a separate hard, rounded device that is surgically and permanently embedded deeper in the eye socket.
An ocular implant is often wrapped with living tissue or a synthetic cushioning material before placement.
Prosthetic Eye Surgery: What to Expect
After surgery to remove the natural eye, a ball-shaped ocular implant is permanently and deeply implanted. Later, the removable prosthesis is created to fit over it.
Removing a damaged eye is usually performed under local anesthesia. Sedating medicines and pain medicine may be given through the veins to reduce anxiety and pain. General anesthesia is usually not necessary but is an option.
Oral antibiotics may be prescribed for several days after prosthetic eye surgery. Antibiotic eyedrops are usually prescribed for a few weeks. The eye socket is kept covered and given months to heal.
After healing is complete, a specialist in prosthetic eyes (ocularist) makes wax impressions of the front of the eye socket. The ocularist builds a custom prosthetic eye to fit over the ocular implant. A new iris (colored part of the eye) and blood vessels on the white area are carefully painted on by hand to match the healthy eye.
A prosthetic eye moves, but often not as fully or briskly as your other healthy eye. The pupil in a prosthetic eye does not change in response to light. So the pupils of the two eyes may appear unequal.
The eye socket may continue to change shape after surgery. Additional fitting and adjustment of the prosthesis may be necessary for weeks or months after initial placement.
Although the surgery itself is minor, loss of an eye and adjusting to life with a prosthetic eye can be very challenging, psychologically, and emotionally. Counseling and support groups are available to help people through this often difficult period.