Getting a prosthetic eye cleaned is a lot like regular maintenance from a dentist. It’s an opportunity to evaluate your health and the status of your eye socket as well as the functionality and aesthetics of the prosthesis within the eye socket.
In terms of health and patient comfort, often little things can start to cause big problems. But these little things can be addressed and resolved when a patient is seen frequently or, at the very least, biannually, before they become major issues. For example, if someone has lost their eye due to cancer, if the artificial eye moves in or out, that may be a sign that the tumor has come back. We want to make sure that the eye socket hasn’t changed shapes, which can cause necrosis. If the artificial eye is pushing on a live eye behind it, and the piece doesn’t fit properly, this can cause pain. We need to see these types of conditions so that we can modify the shape and get people a proper fit as soon as possible. Anatomies change and therefore your piece needs to change as well. Pieces should be changed gradually over time in order to conform with such changes, particularly during the first couple of years when the majority of the anatomy fitting has taken place.
However, the main reason to get your eye cleaned twice per year is to keep the build up of mucus secretions or protein at a minimum. While such build up is totally normal, if it builds up in excess it can act as a sort of sand paper and cause enormous irritation if it is not addressed. Your ocularist will clean your eye for you using office equipment.
Doing so is a chance to review the hygiene of a patient and make sure they are doing things properly. Sometimes, people have tremendous discharge when they come in, then reveal that they clean their eye every day with toilet paper. In doing so, they are actually making matters much worse for the piece, and removing it so often is not ideal either. Toilet paper or towel are 2 common causes of tremendous chronic secretions and irritations. When people come in for biannual cleanings, we make plans to address issues regularly if there are any serious issues and get them on a track to taking optimal care of their piece.
There is a medical necessity to cleaning, which is removing causes of irritation and addressing hygiene. But the other side is the cosmetic side — maximizing symmetry and any artistic changes that might be necessary. Sclera can darken over time, veining patterns may change, eyelid shape may change. All these things should be evaluated in order to maintain the highest cosmetic values of the piece as well.
Don’t take your eye out too often if your ocularist hasn’t instructed you to, and don’t delay your twice yearly visit. You’ve spent too much time on your piece not to get the most out of it going forward!