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My sister knows someone who has a glass eye. She was telling me about him and relaying a story he had told her. Once he was in an air-conditioned building and walked outside into a hot day and his glass eye shattered. Someone helped him to clean out the glass, but he was bummed because he didn’t have another glass eye to insert. He went home and told his mom and she went to a box where she kept all of his old glass eyes and she pulled one out for him to use. He washed it before inserting it. My sister said that he had all these glass eyes because as he grew, he’d have to be refitted for a new one every so often.

Wow. The questions this raises in my mind …

How often does a person have to be refitted for a glass eye?

If it’s not replaced, will it eventually become too small for the socket and fall out?

Does a glass eye track like a normal eye? Or does it stay stationary?

How is it lubricated?

Is it heavy? How does it feel in the socket? Does it get to a point where the body can’t really feel it (like glass, contacts, or a hearing aid)?

What’s it like to insert a glass eye? What’s it like not to wear the eye? How does an empty eye socket feel?

How many people in the world have glass eyes?

Who makes glass eyes?

What’s the typical age for getting a glass eye?

Is a glass eye obvious when looking at someone who has one? In what way?

How does the other eye compensate?

My ignorance on the subject of glass eyes is obvious. I imagined a glass eye to be an orb that gets popped into the socket and that’s about it. My sister’s story opened my own eyes to the fact that there is a lot more to know about glass eyes. Online research gave me a glimpse into the subject and answered a number of my questions.

I found a video on YouTube showing a young man demonstrating how to remove and insert a glass eye.

Those who make glass eyes and assist patients in glass eye fitting are called ocularists. There is an American Society of Ocularists.

Glass eyes, by the way, are no longer made of glass, although they used to be. They are now made of a particular type of plastic. They are also not the round eyes of my imagination. Rather, if the entire eyeball must be removed (called enucleation), an orbital implant is used to fill the socket and give it shape. The artifical eye is a cupped form that fits over either the orbital implant or the remaining natural eyeball. This eye is created to appear as life-like as possible, with an iris that closely matches the existing eye, surrounded by the white of the eye. “Artificial eye” and “prosthetic eye” seem to be the proper terms for these replacement eyes.

It is recommended that infants visit an ocularist every three months. A child under the age of 9 should go twice a year, and every one else, once a year. Although the website I’ve linked to for this info indicates these visits are more about keeping the artificial eye polished and making sure the human tissue is still healthy, rather than discussing the refitting for size.

I’ve learned many interesting things about artificial eyes, but there’s still more to learn. If anyone reading this has an artificial eye or knows someone with an artificial eye, I’d really be interested in hearing about what the experience is like on a personal level. Comments are moderated on this blog, so they won’t go public until I approve them. If you want me to keep your message private, please let me know within your comment, or send me an email at woowooteacup (at) gmail (dot) com.