An ocularist is a carefully trained technician skilled in the arts of fitting, shaping, and painting ocular prostheses. In addition to creating it, the ocularist shows the patient how to handle and care for the prosthesis, and provides long-term care through periodic examinations.
Artificial eye-making has been practiced since ancient times. The first ocular prostheses were made by Roman and Egyptian priests as early as the fifth century B.C. In those days, artificial eyes were made of painted clay attached to cloth and worn outside the socket. It took many centuries for the first in-socket artificial eyes to be developed. At first, these were made of gold with colored enamel. Then, in the later part of the sixteenth century, the Venetians started making artificial eyes out of glass. These early glass eyes were crude, uncomfortable to wear, and very fragile. Even so, the Venetians continued making them and kept their methods secret until the end of the eighteenth century. After that, the center for artificial eye-making shifted to Paris for a time; but by the mid-nineteenth century, German glass-blowers had developed superior techniques, and the center for glass eye-making moved to Germany. Shortly thereafter, glass eye-making was introduced in the United States. During World War II, the imported German glass used for glass prostheses became unavailable in this country. As a result of this shortage, the U.S. Government, in conjunction with a number of American firms, popularized the techniques for making artificial eyes out of acrylic plastic. The popularity of this method has continued to increase over the years, and today the vast majority of patients wear ocular prostheses made of acrylic.
“Stock” or “ready-made” ocular prostheses are mass-produced. Since a “stock eye” is not made for any particular person, it doesn’t fit any particular patient. A “custom” ocular prosthesis, on the other hand, is made by your ocularist to fit you and you alone.
Each patient’s case is different. If post surgery allows it, our impression techniques achieve the greatest movement possible.
In most cases artificial eyes can be worn continually and need only be removed for cleaning purposes. However, the patient’s eye physician should be consulted in each particular case. Some patients require lubrication which is available in our office. For cleansing the artificial eye we recommend water and a mild soap, or any prescription that may be recommended by an individual doctor (NO alcohol or other chemicals).
While most ocularists take 2-3 days to complete an eye, we strive to complete a patient’s visit in one day. We try to make every patient’s visit comfortable with amenities such as cable TV, free WIFI, complimentary coffee, and toys to keep small children occupied.
The ocular prosthesis, like hard contact lenses, needs to be polished regularly in order to restore the acrylic finish and insure the health of the surrounding tissues. It is generally recommended that infants under 3 years of age be seen every 3 months; patients under 9 twice yearly, and all other patients at least once a year. Most people will need a replacement after 5 years, but circumstances may dictate more frequent replacements, especially children.
Patients can come in for a free evaluation since every case may be different. Most insurance covers an allowed amount.
If insurance coverage is available, we will assist you in every possible way to obtain full benefits of your policy. We are in network with all major insurance companies. If you have an HMO plan we recommend referrals from your primary doctor and need a preauthorization . However, it should be noted that the patient, or in the case of children, a parent or guardian is always responsible for payment. Our office accepts all major insurances including Blue Cross/Blue Shield and veterans affairs (VA) payments.
The American Society of Ocularists (ASO) is a professional organization which was established by a group of skilled American ocularists in 1957. Their purpose was to promote high standards through research and education in the field of ophthalmic prosthetics. Today the ASO maintains quality ocularistry through its formal education, training and continuing education programs.
In most states, there are no laws governing ocularists. When choosing an artificial eyemaker, you should consult your state regulations and look for the following credentials:
- Membership in the American Society of Ocularists
- Certification by the National Examining Board of Ocularists