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The Glass Eye

An ocular prosthesis, better known as a glass eye, is an artificial eye that replaces an absent natural eye. Ocular prostheses are necessary for a variety of reasons, such as congenital problems, trauma, and occasional serious infections that result in removal of the eye. The prosthetic eye fits inside the eye socket under the eyelids and roughly takes the shape of a convex shell. Most people are surprised to discover that “glass eyes” are not actually made of glass. Currently, ocular prostheses are made of a medical-grade plastic called acrylic. It is also interesting to note that glass eyes are not complete sphere or round like a golf ball; glass eyes are concave on the back surface and are comparable to a half-moon shape. Ocular prostheses are easy to remove and clean and due to modern craftsmanship, they are difficult to discern from someone’s biological eye. Ocularists who make prosthetic eyes are true artists and can make acrylic eyes that match their fellow eye’s color and pupil size remarkably well.

Ambrose Paré (1510-1590), a famous French surgeon, was the first to describe the use of artificial eyes to fit an eye socket; however, it is German craftsmen who are credited with the invention and earliest common use of ocular prosthetics, which were made out of glass. Beginning in 1835 the glass form flourished in France and Germany where production secrets were handed down from one generation to the next. German craftsmen coined the term “ocularists” and began to tour the United States, as well as other parts of the world, setting up shop for days at a time in one city after another where they created eyes and fit them to patients. By the mid-1940s, with the development of acrylic, glass eyes were being replaced by the plastic counterpart. Medical-grade plastic acrylic is still used today to make prosthetic eyes. Not only are plastic prosthetic eyes more durable than their glass counterparts, they are custom-made for individual fitting, which provides both a more natural look and a better fit.

The making and fitting of prosthetic eyes takes several visits to an ocularist. The ocularist makes several measurements of the eye, a cast of the eye socket, and other observations throughout the process of a custom-fit. Depending on the actual removal or the circumstances surrounding the loss of the natural eye, prosthetic eyes may allow movement by attaching ocular muscles to the implant. The future of prosthetic eyes likely includes the use of magnets and bionics, both of which have been developed and are undergoing testing. The successful incorporation of magnets into prosthetic eyes could mean easier, more natural movement.

Currently, ocular prostheses cost anywhere from $2000 to $5000, depending on where they are manufactured or sold. There are ready-made prostheses available; however, they are nearly as expensive as custom-made prosthetics, yet do not fit as well, so most people simply choose to have their prosthesis custom-made. Insurance can be very helpful for people who require a prosthetic eye, as most insurance companies do cover them under health benefits.

At Cockrell Eyecare Center we provide prosthetic eye care, including insertion and removal, cleaning and management. If you have questions about prosthetic eyes, please contact our office in Stillwater at 405-372-1715. We also invite you to visit our website at and like us on Facebook at Cockrell Eyecare Center!