Artificial Eyes – Everything You Need to Know

In this article, you will learn more about artificial eyes, how they are made and what there is to consider with these prostheses. An ocularist is the correct contact person when it comes to the very demanding and individual fabrication of artificial eyes.

Please note that follow-up care is often performed in conjunction with your ophthalmologist. All intervals in relation to the controls are very individual. Please contact your ophthalmologist or ocularist if you have any further questions about artificial eyes.

Can You See With an Artificial Eye?

You cannot see with an artificial eye. The artificial eye is a prosthesis that compensates for the lost eye volume when the eye has shrunk or been removed. It is therefore used for cosmetic compensation only and does not replace the function of the eye.

In this video, you can see how an artificial eye is made from acrylic.

What Material Is Used for Artificial Eyes?

For the production of artificial eyes or glass eyes, a high-quality special glass is used. It is called cryolite glass. This type of glass has a number of positive characteristics that make it ideal for use in ocular prosthetics:

Cryolite glass is chemically neutral and free of harmful substances such as lead. Allergies in combination that came up with wearing an artificial eye are not known. In addition, cryolite glass has a very smooth surface and can therefore be optimally wetted by the tear fluid.

This ensures optimal wearing comfort: The movements of the eyelids on the surface of the prosthesis as well as the movements of the entire prosthesis in the conjunctival sac create only minimal friction.

Cryolite glass offers very good mucosal tolerance and for this reason, can be worn without irritations.

Alternatively, the artificial eye can also be made of plastic. Artificial eyes made of plastic have lower durability. However, they are used for people with a higher risk of breakage. For example, for people who are motor-impaired or cannot handle the prosthesis optimally.

The images above show artificial eyes made out of cryolite glass. You can also see the typical shapes of artificial eyes.

How Artificial Eyes are Made?

When it comes to making artificial eyes, prefabricated artificial eyes help the ocularist. Here he can estimate the required size and shape.

The artificial eye itself is then made individually in the presence of the customer. Glass is strongly heated and deformed by blowing air into or out of the workpiece. The customer must be directly on-site so that the color can be perfectly matched to the existing eye.

An artificial eye made of glass is created in three successive work steps:

The Blank Out of Cryolite Glass With a Drawing of the Iris

The starting material for the production of artificial eyes is a tube of white cryolite glass. From this tube a sphere is blown. In order to reproduce the individual coloring and structure of the iris, in the next step colored glass is applied to the white sphere using a wide variety of specially made drawing sticks. In a lot of cases many layers are applied on top of each other.

After applying the pupil with black glass, the anterior chamber of the eye, the cornea, is reproduced with pure glass crystal. This gives the iris drawing its own spatial depth. The sphere with the finished iris drawing is the starting point for the individual fabrication of the prosthesis. Ocularists always have blanks available for this purpose. If your ocularist does not have a specific eye color in stock, it will be made individually for the patient on-site.

The Perfect Individual Adjustment of the Eye Color

In the presence of the patient, the individually suitable iris color is selected and, if necessary, further modified. This includes the adjustment of the iris size to that of the remaining eye, as well as the correct reproduction of the veins and the opacity of the white part of the eyeball, the sclera. As humans grow old certain changes in the eyes are visible.

Age-related changes of the eye, such as arcus senilis or increased visible veins, are also individually incorporated into the prosthesis by an ocularist. The pupil of a healthy eye permanently adapts to the existing light conditions. An ocular prosthesis made of glass does not have this characteristic. Therefore, your ocularist chooses an “average size” for the pupil that corresponds to the patient’s average normal pupil dilation.

The Individual Adjustment of the Shape

Now the ocular prosthesis is given its unique shape for each patient. There are two variants: the double-walled prosthesis and a much thinner single-walled prosthesis. Double-walled ocular prostheses represent the most common fitting for empty eye sockets.

Single-walled shells, on the other hand, are used for very narrow spaces within the eye socket as well as for lining a blinded eye (in this case called a bulbus scleral shell). In both cases, the original sphere is gradually given the required individual shape with millimeter precision by melting away the excess glass material. At the end of this work step, the finished, semicircular eye prosthesis is finally created.

How Is the Artificial Eye Cleaned?

The prosthesis should be cleaned thoroughly once a day. Therefore only clear, lukewarm water should be used. Hot or excessively cold water is strongly discouraged, as extreme temperature fluctuations can impair the durability of the material.

Please also do not use any corrosive liquids or abrasive objects for cleaning. In the case of stubborn soiling, the artificial eye can be soaked for approx. 10 minutes. Alcohol-based germicidal liquids can be used for this purpose. Do not forget to rinse your prosthesis thoroughly with clean water afterwards.

Artificial eyes have been individually manufactured and fitted. High-quality special glass, which is specially produced for the manufacture of artificial eyes, was used as the material. The very high resistance of the surface to the aggressive tear fluid guarantees optimal mucous membrane compatibility.

The good wearing properties of your prosthesis allow you optimum freedom of movement at work, during leisure time, and in sports. For example, you can also go swimming with your prosthesis. As a matter of principle, the artificial eye should not be stored in water.

How Long Do Artificial Eyes Last?

Artificial eyes are usually limited to one year of wear. One reason for this is the wear of the artificial eye caused by the tear film and the constant friction of the eyelids.

If the artificial eye is worn for longer, the changed rougher surface can irritate the eyes. The first signs are lacrimation, secretion, and increased redness of the mucous membrane. For this reason, regular checks of the artificial eye by your ophthalmologist or ocularist are recommended.

How to Insert or Remove an Artificial Eye

To avoid damage, insertion and removal should never be done over sinks, tiles, or hard floors, but always over soft surfaces such as towels. Before inserting the prosthesis, clean it thoroughly and moisten it slightly to facilitate insertion.

Insertion is performed by first pushing the prosthesis (the short part usually points towards the nose) under the raised upper eyelid and holding it in this position. Slightly pulling down the lower lid allows the artificial eye to slide into its final position. If necessary, correct the fit of your prosthesis by applying light finger pressure to the eye to allow any air that may have been inadvertently inserted to escape.

The eye prosthesis is also removed over a soft surface. It is generally done with the direction of gaze facing upwards. Press the lower lid behind the prosthesis from below until the lower edge of the prosthesis is exposed. Slide the tip of your index finger under this edge and grasp the artificial eye with your middle finger to remove it downward from the eye socket.

If necessary, removal can also be done with the thumb and index finger. In exceptional cases, a special hook or suction cup may be required. Your ocularist will be happy to advise you on this. Please note: if you rub the eye, always do so in the direction of the nose, otherwise you could twist the prosthesis or push it out.

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