PROPER HYGIENE AND HANDLING OF YOUR ARTIFICIAL EYE
Ocularists on Staff Susan Tynes, B.C.O. & Carrie Messer, B.C.O.
How often should the prosthesis be removed?
Unless your eye physician has given you a definite schedule for cleaning your ocular prosthesis, it is recommended not to handle or remove it too often. A general rule of thumb to follow is that if the prosthesis does not bother you, do not disturb it.
The only exception would be for those individuals who are currently wearing or are in the process of being fitted for a SCLERAL SHELL OCULAR PROSTHESIS over their existing but partially damaged eye. Your ocularist will give you a wearing schedule to follow. Later, after wearing the shell several weeks or months, the ocularist or ophthalmologist may advise you on the length of time your eye can tolerate the prosthesis.
Handling and cleaning the prosthesis
Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water and rinse them well. Your fingers can transmit bacterial organism, debris, oil or other irritating foreign material into the eyes socket. Much of the daily accumulation of dried mucus and tear deposits can be removed from the eyelashes and front surface of the prosthesis by using a soft cloth, gauze or cotton swab well moistened with clear, warm water. Wipe gently toward the nose.
If the accumulation is quite heavy and irritating to the eyelids, then the prosthesis should be removed and cleaned with mild soap, baby shampoo or an enzymatic contact lens cleaner. If you can not do this satisfactorily, make an appointment with an Ocularist to have the surface polished.
Excessive secretion and eye socket hygiene
Unless your eyelids have been severely damaged, your tear glands will function normally; flushing small dust particles and other eye irritants from the eye socket just as they do with a living eye. The amount of tears and secretion will vary with the individual and can be considerable at times.
Head colds, allergies, working in heavy dust areas, becoming overtired, being in wind, extreme temperature changes, and a poorly fitting or rough ocular prosthesis can cause excessive secretion and sometimes infection.
Following a head cold or exposure to heavy dust it is advisable to remove the prosthesis and flush the eye socket. Use a syringe or an eye cup with warm water or an approved eye wash. There are commercial drops and ointments available to remove excessive secretion and aid in lubricating the surface of the prosthesis. If an infection is apparent, consult an ophthalmologist (eye physician).
Why replace an ocular prosthesis?
An ill-fitting prosthesis can be either too small, too large, or incompatible with the socket contours. Any one of these could cause excessive secretion. Because plastic is porous, it will absorb fluids from the eye socket over a number of years. The acids in these fluids will eventually cause separation of the plastic and therefore blisters and cracks appear on the prosthesis surface. Also bacteria from the fluids will saturate the plastic and cause infections as the plastic ages.
When one or several of these problems occurs, the prosthesis should be replaced. The average lifetime of a plastic ocular prosthesis is from three to seven years for an adult and from two to five years for children and adolescents. It will vary with each individual according to their physical changes.
In order to avoid possible tissue damage to the eye socket and eyelids from a rough or ill-fitting prosthesis, it is important to have your ocular prosthesis checked by an Ocularist at least once a year. Small children should be checked every six months.