Dealing with eye loss can be a very distressing experience. Added to that, getting through the procedures to receive an artificial eye (also known as a prosthetic) then learning to live with and care for your new eye can also cause worry.
In this article, we’ll answer some of themost commonly asked questions about what to expect from the operation and from living with an artificial eye.
There are two types of operations in which prosthetic eyes are fitted. The first is called an enucleation operation, which is used to treat eye loss from retinoblastoma – cancer of the eye – or infection. The second type is known as an evisceration operation, and is used on patients who have lost an eye through some sort of trauma, such as an accident or injury.
Whichever operation you have, the surgeons will first implant a transparent plastic shell into the eye socket to hold its shape and allow it to heal. The type of implant can vary; some are solid,while some are made from a more porous material so that the surrounding tissue can naturally reconnect over time.
Theimplantshould heal within a few weeks, at which point you will be fitted with prosthesis.Artificial eyes are created by specialists called ocularists, and are made specifically for the exact shape and size of your eye. For this reason, you may need to consult with the ocularist two or more times, to get a precise mould made.
What to expect from the operation
The details can vary depending on the hospital, and your surgical team will go through your schedule with you. Most patients are admitted to hospital for tests the day before surgery, including blood work and chest x-rays. On the day of the operation, you’ll have a general anaestheticfirst.
When you’re out of recovery, you can return to the ward. You will have a bandage over your eye for a day, to help reduce swelling. If you have any pain or discomfort, you can take painkillers, as needed. The next day, the doctors will remove the bandage. It’s normal for the eye to appear bruised or swollen. This will go away as the area begins to heal – although it can sometimes look worse before it starts to look better.
Before you are sent home, the nursing staff will provide you with all the information you will need to care for your eye at home. Of course, keeping the eye socket, the prosthetic and the shell implant clean is essential, and again, the nursing team will give you instructions for how to do that. After you have returned home, you can keep your eye uncovered to let it heal, or you may wish to wear sunglasses when you go out.
As with any surgery, there can be complications or risks, including bleeding, swelling or infection. Over the longer term, some patients may have irritation around the eye socket or discharge, or the implant itself can become exposed. As always, talk to your surgeon or nursing team if you experience any unusual symptoms.
Life after surgery
Once you are fitted with your permanent prosthetic, you will find you will have a broad range of movement of the eye. Most patients report returningto “normal” life after surgery, being able to sleep with the prosthetic in place, wear eye make-up, go swimming, and so forth. (Be sure to wear goggles when in the water or protective eyewear when doing anything that could cause injury.)