Thursday, November 8, 2012

Prosthetic Eye FAQs

Here are answers to some of the questions I occasionally get about my prosthetic eye. If you have a question that I don’t answer here, leave it in the comments section and I will be happy to respond. (Please note: at the bottom of the post there is a picture of me without my prosthetic eye. It is not overly graphic, but if you aren't comfortable, don't scroll to the bottom.)

Q. Can you drive?
A. Yes. The oncologist who removed my eye informed me that the only thing I can't do with just one eye is fly an airplane. I have since heard of monocular people who have flown, but taking to the lofty blue has never been tempting to me with either one eye or two.

Q. Does your real eye get tired?
A. No. I figure my chances of going blind are higher. (I deal with that fear in this post.) And I have been advised to wear glasses to protect my remaining eye. But those are the only considerations so far for my live eye.

Q: What is your prosthetic eye made out of?
A: In former eras prosthetic eyes were made out of glass, earning them the name “glass eyes”. Now they are made out of acrylic (plastic).

Q: Is your prosthetic eye round?
A: When I met with my oncologist two days after my eye was removed, he showed me some prosthetic eyes. I was confused that they weren’t round. Prosthetic eyes are actually shaped like a thick contact lens.

My prosthetic eye
Q: Where did you get your prosthetic eye?
A: I chose an ocularist (there are two in Utah) to make my eye. Creating a prosthetic eye is a three-day process. On the first day he measured the pupil of my live eye and made a mold of my empty eye socket. The second day I sat there while he painted my prosthetic eye to closely match my live eye. The third day I went back and my eye was finished and he put it in for me.(I really like my ocularist, but I felt a bit like a specimen in Frankenstein’s lab during the process.)

Q: Can you take your eye out?
A: Yes, but I usually don’t simply because I don’t need to. If it gets extremely itchy I might remove it to soak it or give my socket a brief rest. But that would only be for a few minutes.

Q: Does your prosthetic eye move?
A: Yes. When my eye was removed the muscles were detached from my eyeball and attached to a small, round, coral-like implant. The muscles move the implant. My prosthetic eye sits on top of the muscles and moves similarly to my live eye.

Waiting for my ocularist to clean my eye 
Q. Does it hurt to wear a prosthetic eye?
A. No. I can't feel it when I wear it; and as long as I'm not too rough putting it in and taking it out, that doesn't hurt, either.

Q: What does your socket look like?
A: When my eye is removed nothing holds open the eye lid, so you can’t see in the socket very well. But if you were to hold my eyelids open, you would see pink tissue that looks like the inside of your lip.


  1. How did you end up with a prosthetic eye? Thank you, Mitchell, 8 yo

  2. Isn't a patch more confortable? My wife lost her eye recently and she's very reluctant to wear a prosthesis, she usually wears a regular sticky patch and very dark sunglasses when she goes out. She says wearing the artificial eye is painful and makes her look weird. I think she still has to come to terms with the situation, she's quite nearsighted, like a minus 7 in the eye she has left (the one she lost was just minus 2 that's bad luck!) Doctors have advised not to wear a contact anymore and she's having a hard time wearing prescription glasses full time, she says she can barely see in them.

    1. I am so sorry about your wife's difficulties. You are right--coming to terms with the situation is something she has to do. For me, it was a process that took place over the course of a few years. I don't really love the way my prosthesis looks. People tell me it looks normal, but I see lots of differences. Eventually I had to decide that it just is what it is whether or not I like it. Although I may feel there are obvious differences, I don't think people notice them. I don't think strangers know the difference.

      My prosthetic eye has never been painful to wear. If hers is I question if it fits correctly? She should definitely talk to her ocularist about that.

      Good luck in your journey--I will pray for your wife to find healing and peace!

  3. The thing is she lost her eye to an infection post injury, they could not do anything to save it and it was surgically removed. Her eyelid was affected too and she had plastic surgery to fix it, and get a prosthetic eye. She spent the first three months wearing a patch for the eye socket to heal and in May doctors said she was ready for her new eye. She was looking forward to it but it turned out to be a big disappointment to her. Being her eyelid hurt part of its mobility has been lost, she is not happy with how her eye looks, let's say it moves slightly but the impression of staring is there. I guess she expected it to look the same as her eye. Apart from that she has the vision issues. She is a long term contacts wearer, nearsighted since childhood. I've had a look and her prescription was -3.25 and -8.50, unfortunately she lost the eye with better vision. Doctors said wearing a contact is not an option anymore and prescribed her glasses with a plano lens and a polycarbonate lens with the updated prescription to help her eye see better. She spent a week wearing the prosthetic eye and her new glasses, she complained she could not see properly and didn't like her glasses because she thinks the lense is thick (it is, that's why she always wore contacts) doctors admit that with glasses vision is worse than with contacts, but they insist it is too risky for her to wear contacts now she is monocular. She also reported a sore eyelid when wearing her eye. After a few days of crying and disconfort she said she was going back to the patch. She wears a brown sticky patch full time and when she goes out very dark prescription shades so that no one notices her patch. At home she wears her new glasses but she complains a lot of headaches and peripheral vision loss. She refuses to wear her prosthetic eye as it is ugly and painful in her own words, she has stopped wearing make up too. I try to confort her, told her we can visit a new specialist and get a new eye but she doesn't want to. She admitted she feels helpless and blind, she hates her new looks and feels unattractive. I wish I could help her feel better.

    Thanks for listening and prayers, do you have vision issues with the eye you have left? Do you ever wear contacts? I think her poor vision is torturing her, she can't drive and when using the computer she gets tired soon, but she's not a candidate for lasik or contacts so I guess she has to make her best with what she has. Any tips to help her? I really appreciate your time.

    1. Wow, this has really been a rough year for your family hasn't it? I am so sorry for your heartache. My vision in my remaining eye is still pretty good. I do worry a tad about going blind one day, but my husband's grandpa is actually blind and a true inspiration to me. That being said, the adjustment period (what you guys are going through) is a really hard time and it's easy to feel hopeless and alone. I remember feeling dizzy a lot in the beginning and it look several months for me to get used to my new vision. I think I grieved the way I looked for a few years afterward. At one point I had to wear eye patches for a year, and my husband made patches for me to fit over my glasses. (There's a picture and article about that here if you are interested: I wear glasses with plain lenses to protect my remaining eye. If your wife likes the idea of colorful patches to cover her glasses, my husband said he'd be happy to post an instructional video for you on youtube or something. I haven't worn make-up since the loss of my eye--my eye itches a lot and I assume make up would make that worse.
      I'm not sure if any of this is helpful. But please know that the feelings she has are normal--it's a very real grieving process and it takes time. If her prosthetic hurts maybe her eyelid hasn't healed yet? Maybe liberal use of prosthetic eye oil (I occasionally use Ocu-Glide) might help? I don't know. If she is more comfortable wearing eye patches long term, does she need to keep a spacer in her socket to keep it healthy? (I was told that the socket needs something in it to keep it from collapsing.)
      I did have experiences where people told me my new eye looked creepy or didn't move well, and for a few years those comments were very painful to me and I was miserable with how I looked. Eventually I came to peace with things, but it took a few years.
      What you are going through now is just plain hard and it takes time. Hang in there! My prayers will be with you.

  4. You're very lucky you have a good eye left, feel very happy for you. The first weeks after she hurt her eye she was in hospital because of retinal detachment, she was in pain and felt better in darkness. Then she got an infection which didn't respond to treatment and doctors had to remove her eye, she had her eyelid fixed and the socket ready to wear a prosthesis. She got home after surgery wearing a protective shield and a bandage, that made glasses uncomfortable and she wore her contact on her remaining eye. It took till May to have her socket and eyelid well enough for her prosthetic eye, and she wore the shield and the patch on it. She then had a very complete vision test to find the most accurate prescription to help her see the best she can. She was very discouraged when all doctors insisted she mustn't wear a contact anymore, even second opinion ones. When her prosthetic eye came she was not happy with it, I mean, she expected an eye, but you can see it is not a real one, it hardly moves. Then she doesn't adjust to glasses, she complains her side vision is much worse in glasses and she feels dizzy, doctors told her she needed time to function well with her glasses. Then she said she felt uncomfortable with the glass eye, she spent hours crying in front of the mirror, her eyelid was cut in two and it doesn't open to its full, she finds her glasses too thick... Nothing has worked well for her since she hurt her eye. She gave up and now she's wearing a patch full time, she has a spacer in her socket and she cleans it every night but she refuses to wear her prosthesis. Thank God she's in glasses and has abandoned the idea of contacts, she's terrified of the idea of going blind. Doctors said her vision is too poor to drive, she's 20/80 with her glasses on. I told her about the possibility of a fabric patch to wear on her lense but she wants her socket to be covered full-time, she was horrified at the idea of our daughters taking her glasses accidentally, she doesn't even want to tell them that her eye is gone.

    I've made an appointment with another doctor to see if there' something else it could be done to help, we'll see him next week. Rachel, thank you so much for your kind support, having someone who's been there it's so nice. Sorry to bother you with our problems, I want to help her but I'm as lost as she feels.

    1. You're no bother--don't worry. It's a terrible thing to go through. I'm truly sorry that she has lost the ability to drive. That is a huge loss to tack onto everything else that is going on right now. Good for you for working so much to help her! A supportive spouse is invaluable at times like this. She definitely needs your love and support.
      I think I went through a bit of post-traumatic stress in the aftermath of my cancer and eye loss. I was fortunate to be put in touch with a woman who lost both of her eyes to cancer, and having someone to talk to was immensely helpful in my healing process. It's an easy thing to feel alone in. Most people don't really understand the trauma and grief of losing a body part. If it would be helpful, I could give your wife my e-mail address so she could communicate with me as needed. It's helpful to not feel alone.
      Right now she is grieving and it makes sense if she's not ready to talk to everyone about it. As time has passed it has been immensely helpful for me to openly acknowledge my feelings and experiences and share them with people. When she reaches a point that she is ready for that, it will help her to heal. Being open reduces shame and feelings of aloneness and opens us up to love, acceptance, and healing.
      You are doing well! This process will ease with time.

  5. I really like reading this blog. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  6. Dear Rachel, After months I can give a happier update about my wife. We visited a very good eye doctor, he took the time to see her and listened to all her concerns. He gave us the number of a specialist to try to look for a prosthesis that works better for her, she's been wearing it for three weeks now and she feels better with it, you can say something is wrong with that eye, but it looks much more natural than the first one she used.

    As to vision in her remaining eye she had a very detailed eye exam. Being a lazy eye since childhood he updated her prescription to try to get the best visual acuity possible and even prescribed a pair of bifocals, as he detected she was in need of reading glasses already. He also prescribed some visual therapy exercises to improve her acuity. She can't do things like driving or sewing but with the bifocals she can read better without getting headaches. She still complains about the thickness of her lense, but now she admits she can see better. It's not a year since it happened, but I see some progress, she goes out more often and doesn't wear sunglasses all the time.

    Sadly, she still doesn't feel strong enough to talk about that, she patches her eye even when she's cleaning her prosthetic eye, and says she isn't ready to talk about it to the girls. Do you tell your children what happened to you?

    Thanks for your kindness

    1. I am glad to hear about the progress. I was thinking of you guys recently and praying for you. It is wonderful that she is making some headway and it hasn't been a full year. It still makes sense that she isn't ready to talk about it much. It took me a few years to reach that point. I have been open with my kids about what happened. Because they have been young, sometimes that has led to comments about me being blind--childlike comments. In the beginning those were painful. Now we're all pretty adjusted to life, and I can usually joke and not feel hurt or overly sensitive. But it really is a process and it takes a few years. Being open has been helpful in my journey towards emotional healing even if it opens me up to bits of pain here and there.
      I really am thrilled to hear of your progress. Good for you for seeking out the best medical care--that really can make a huge difference! The emotional healing will come with time. Good luck in your journey, and good for you for being a good support system!

  7. It's now more than a year since her accident happened and I can say my wife is slowly feeling better. She still hates to talk about it but at least she goes out wearing her glasses and not sunglasses all the time. Two weeks ago she attended a course on how to apply make up with just one eye, this means she can feel attractive again. She goes to a vision therapist once a week, it turns out that the eye she has left has always been a lazy eye, that's why her vision is so poor, but she's learning to make the most of it. She has bifocals for reading and besides she uses a magnifying glass for visually impaired people so that her eye doesn't have to make such a big effort. Depth perception is still difficult sometimes but she's improving. The best news is that we're expecting again, we have two girls and are both very excited. And the funny side of things is that our two daughters failed their eye test in February, they are both nearsighted, just like their mom, the doctor says it runs in the family, (they are twins) so now they are both wearing glasses and they have to patch, one three hours a day and the other seven, this leaves me at times as the only binocular person in the family, I sometimes think I'll buy a black pírate patch to fit in. Anyway, the important thing is that we are already treating the girl's lazy eyes, my wife patched too but their parents were not consistent with the treatment so her eye never got better.

    I'm happy to see you and your family are doing well.

    1. Thanks for sharing all your happy news and progress--I was thrilled to hear that your wife is slowly feeling better about things. That is wonderful! It's great that you guys are taking care of your daughters. Your wife will be able to help and guide them with the experiences she has had. I loved your pirate patch comment. It is especially delightful to hear of your new pregnancy. Best wishes for a happy, healthy next few months!

    2. Just dropped by to say hi. Our third child, Eleanor (yes, another girl) was born in September and she has been such an impulse for my wife's recovery. Her arrival has been a blessing for the whole family. Hope you all are well.

    3. Thank you for sharing you happy news! I am thrilled to hear that your wife is doing better. It's such a blessing when life's experiences can bring a bit of healing. And congratulations on your baby! Eleanor is such a lovely, elegant name. Best wishes for your family as you all move forward!


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