History is unclear about where the craft of making artificial eyes began. Artificial eyes made of wood, porcelain, stone, and gold have been found in ancient Egyptian mummies. There is also some evidence that Venetian glass makers started crafting glass eyes as we know them today.
In the 19th century, German glass eye makers set up shop in the United States. They traveled throughout the country, setting up shop in a city for a number of days before moving on. Glass eyes have also been fit out of "stock." A patient may have sent away for one by mail order, or a doctor may have kept drawers of artificial eye stock on hand. The best fit and color match was determined from hundreds of choices.
While many patients still refer to their artificial eye as a "glass" eye, very few eyes today are made of glass and are instead made of an acrylic material. Plastic artifical eyes have many advantages, but among the most important are the ability to impression fit the eye and the fact they can be polished to remove any accumulated buildup or debris.
Plastic artificial eyes, as we know them today, were developed in the United States during World War II. At that time, German glass eye makers were not coming into the US and an alternative was needed.
It is believed that a German named Fritz Jardon, in conjunction with American Optical Company, worked with the US Army and Navy to develop the acrylic ocular prosthetic. The acrylic, known as polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA), is used because of its outstanding optical qualities. It is durable and has a long life, and it is the same material from which older “hard” contact lenses were made.
Artificial eyes are used in a patient following enucleation surgery. In an enucleation, the eye is removed and an implant is put in its place, with tissue being closed over the implant. Fitting an artificial eye can begin approximately 6-8 weeks following surgery.
Step 1: To begin making a custom prosthesis, a mold of the eye socket is made. A tray is placed under the lids and a molding agent is injected into the tray. Once set, the mold is removed from the socket.
Step 2: A wax shape is made to try in the socket. Wax is used because it can be easily changed and carved or added to quickly; the goal is lid symmetry.
Step 3: Once the wax shape is completed, prosthesis fabrication begins. A stone mold is cast from the wax shape. The stone mold holds the plastic for the prosthesis during the curing process.
Step 4: A "painting shell,” a prosthesis with the clear cover unattached, is created. This prosthesis can be put together and tried on the patient to evaluate the color. If the color needs to be enhanced, the clear cover is removed and the color touched up. All custom prosthetics are hand painted to achieve the best color match.
Step 5: Once the color has been completed, the prosthesis is then covered in a clear layer of plastic and polished. It is then ready for delivery to the patient.
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Andersen Eye Associates proudly serves the Greater Saginaw region including Flint, Frankenmuth, Bay City, Midland, Bridgeport, Bad Axe, Mount Pleasant, and surrounding areas.