If you have been in a recent accident, have eye cancer, or your eye is impaired, you may be a candidate for a prosthetic eye, known as a glass eye. (Learn More) Obtaining an ocular prosthesis can be a long process.

Properly caring for your new ocular prosthesis will help it last for a long time to come. (Learn More) Below are answers to common questions about prosthetic eyes.

Why Is a Prosthetic Eye Needed?

prosthetic eye

Conditions like eye cancer may necessitate a prosthetic eye after treatment, especially if radiation therapy is used. Though treatments for eye cancer may prevent it from spreading to other parts of the body, side effects may include bleeding, loss of vision, dry eye, and problems with tear ducts.

Eye cancer is uncommon. It can either start in the eye (intraocular) or affect the outer parts of the eye. In some cases, it is necessary to remove the entire eye as part of treatment.

You may also need an ocular prosthesis if you have had a severe injury, infection, or painful blind eye.

What Are Artificial Eyes Made Of?

“Glass eyes” are not made out of glass today. Instead, they are implants that are spherical and made of medical-grade plastic acrylic.

What Is Eye Removal Surgery Like?

There are two kinds of eye surgery.

  • Evisceration: This is less invasive, as only parts of the eye are removed, including the cornea and eye contents. Muscles and the white part (scleral shell) stay. This surgery is not right for everyone.
  • Enucleation: This surgery is usually the best way to help patients who have more severe symptoms caused by cancer, injury, and infections. The entire eye is removed, and muscles are then sewn into the implant to assist with movement.

These surgeries are needed before you get your prosthetic eye. After these surgeries, a shell or clear plastic will be positioned behind your eye to prevent the eyelid from contracting.

What Can I Expect After Eye Removal Surgery?

Surgeons performing an eye surgery under the microscope at the hospital - healthcare and medicine concepts

Eye removal surgery is usually an outpatient procedure. You can often go home the same day.

It is common to feel pain in the affected area. Over-the-counter pain medications are helpful for most patients, but your doctor may give you a prescription for pain medication.

Swimming, exercise, lifting, and other demanding physical activities may be restricted for the next two to four weeks. You will have to take care of the bandage over your eye, and keep it on as long as your surgeon recommends.

Surgery can come with risks and side effects, such as drooping of the eyelid, infection, bleeding, and scarring. You may need to use special eye drops to deal with some of these side effects.

When Will I Get My Prosthetic Eye?

It may take six to ten weeks for swelling to go down. You will then visit your ocularist to be fitted for a prosthetic eye.

This will be placed in your eye socket about three to four months after you have healed from your eye removal surgery.

What Options Do I Have for Ordering a Prosthetic Eye? 

You can buy an ocular prosthesis online. These are called stock shells and can be cheaper than a custom-fit prosthesis. However, stock shells do not always fit as well as a custom-made ocular prosthesis.

Are There Any Complications I Can Expect After Being Fitted for a Prosthetic Eye? 

itchy eyes

Your new prosthetic eye may feel uncomfortable or tight. You may also have some discharge during use, especially during cold weather. If you work in a place that is dusty, you can expect a bit more discharge than usual.

How Do I Move my Eyes? 

Your doctor will connect your implant to your muscles to facilitate movement using eye tissue. This will let you move your eye in a more natural manner, but a prosthetic eye will not always move as much as a natural eye.

How Long Do Prosthetic Eyes Last?

If cleaned and properly cared for, your prosthetic eyes can last for years, even decades.

How Long Can I Wear My Prosthetic Eye?

You can wear your prosthetic eye all day if you are comfortable. You only need to remove it once in a while so it can be cleaned.

How Often Should I Clean My Ocular Prosthesis?

With practice, you will eventually be able to take out your prosthetic eye and clean it yourself. It is recommended that you clean your ocular prosthesis about every two to three weeks.

Make sure your hands are completely clean whenever you touch the ocular prosthesis. Only dislodge the eye when suggested by your ocularist.

person washing hands

What Is the Right Way to Clean My Prosthetic Eye?

To remove your eye to clean it, do so in front of a mirror and use a towel in case the eye falls. This will prevent it from breaking or becoming damaged.

Next, pull the lower part of your eyelid downward. You should be able to see the edge of the prosthesis and use the extractor to remove the eye.

Boil water and allow it to cool. Then use a tissue or gauze soaked in this water to clean any discharge around your eye or eyelashes. Use unscented soap and warm water to clean the eye, and then sterilize it again use the boiled cool water from before.

Disinfectants, detergents, and chemical-laden soaps may ruin your prosthetic eye. Avoid these.

How Often Should I Get a Checkup for My Eye?

It is best to check on your eye’s health every 12 to 18 months. This allows doctors to monitor wear and tear, and give your eye a professional clean and polish.

You will notice that after about a year, or even a few months, your eye may even produce more discharge, signifying that should get your eye checked soon.

eye doctor examining woman's eye

What Is the Cost of a Prosthetic Eye?

This can vary depending on which clinic you use to obtain the ocular prosthesis. Things can affect the cost of a prosthetic eye are your location, the way the doctor designs your eye, and the prior condition of your natural eye. A digital design is likely to be cheaper.

Complicated surgeries and aftercare are likely to drive up the cost of your prosthetic eye. After surgery, medical costs, and properly fitting a prosthetic eye, you can expect to spend several thousands of dollars.

Medicare may be able to assist with these costs if your doctor is enrolled with them. They will consider your doctor’s charges, where you obtain treatment necessary to obtain the prosthesis, and other insurance you may have, if any.

References

Radiation Therapy for Eye Cancer. (November 2018). American Cancer Society.

Eye Cancer. (August 2016). MedlinePlus.

Eye Melanoma. (September 2018). Mayo Clinic.

Eye Removal Surgery: Enucleation and Evisceration. (June 2019). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Prosthetic Rehabilitation of an Ocular Defect With Post-Enucleation Socket Syndrome: A Case Report. (January 2014). Saudi Dental Journal.

Everything You Need to Know About Having a Prosthetic Eye. (May 2018). Healthline.

How to Take Care of Artificial Eyes. (April 2014). Newsmax.

Custom-Made Ocular Prosthesis. (August 2012). Journal of Pharmacy and Bioallied Science.

Is My Test, Item, or Service Covered? (2019). Medicare.gov.

Artificial Eye Care. National Artificial Eye Service.