by M.D. Beck
Posted on Thursday 20th of August 2009
If someone has sustained an injury to an eye that has caused it to fail, or if that person has dealt with some kind of eye disease that has caused blindness, it can make sense to remove the eye and replace it with a prosthetic, or artificial, eye. Doing that is less difficult than most people would think, because removing the eye is relatively uncomplicated when compared to many other surgeries. The risk of infection and other complications is small, and since the eye is already damaged there is no concern about causing blindness.
Once the blind eye has been removed and the area has healed completely, a prosthetic eye can be fitted for the patient. During the healing process an eye patch can be worn to protect the area from dust, debris, and foreign objects. A prosthetic eye is fitted in much the same way that dental guards are fitted – by using a pliable material to take an impression of the area. The eye socket is slightly different in every individual, and it is not perfectly round or almond-shaped. Simply taking measurements would not be enough to get a proper fit.
Once an impression has been created the prosthetic eye can be made and shaped to fit the patient perfectly. There will be a little bit of trial and error; some shaping and adjusting is generally needed with a new prosthetic eye when the patient wears it for the first time. That is done during a scheduled fitting, so the doctor can ensure that the artificial eye fits properly and that the patient is able to take the eye in and out without assistance. The eye must fit just right, or it may not stay in properly. It has to be able to be removed for cleaning and maintenance, but should otherwise be firmly seated, allowing the person to do normal daily activities without any fear of dislodging it.
A prosthetic eye can help stop the eyelid from drooping, which often happens if the eye is simply removed and isn't replaced with anything. There are muscles that control the eyelid, but the shape of the eye works with those muscles to keep the lid from sagging. When the prosthetic eye is properly shaped and worn consistently, any droop in the upper eyelid is usually minimal. The prosthetic eye will not move like an actual eye, nor will the painted 'pupil' react to light, but modern prosthetic eyes are very natural-looking. They are carefully crafted and painted to match the color of the person's remaining eye, so they're often difficult to detect.
Some people make the choice to keep their natural eye, even if it is blind, because of their fear of surgery or the cost of the prosthetic, but an increasing number of individuals are seeing the benefits of simply having a blind eye removed. It can be less obvious for a person to have a prosthetic eye than a natural eye that is blind, and in many cases the artificial eye is the preferred alternative.
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