Eye Care Providers (cont.)
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An ocularist is an eye-care provider who specializes in the fabrication and fitting of ocular prostheses for people who have lost an eye or eyes due to trauma or illness. The fabrication process for a custom-made eye typically includes taking an impression of the eye socket, shaping a plastic shell, painting the iris, and then fitting the ocular prostheses. These prosthetic devices are remarkably similar to the patient's own eye, usually matched to the remaining normal eye's colors and dimensions. With modern technology, the prosthetic eye can be created in three dimensions from acrylic plastic.
In addition to creating the prosthetic eye, ocularists show the patient how to care for and handle the prosthesis. Ocularists may develop their skills from various background disciplines, for example medical, optometry, dental, nursing, biology, medical arts, and illustration. If insurance coverage is available, most ocularist offices will assist in every possible way to obtain full insurance benefits for purchase of the prosthesis. However, it should be noted that the patient, or in the case of children, a parent or guardian is always responsible for payment. In the case of HMOs, it is always necessary to obtain a referral before work can begin on a new ocular prosthesis. The ocular prosthesis 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 wearing a prosthesis be seen every three months; patients under 9 years of age should be seen twice yearly, and all other patients should be seen at least once a year.
John D. Sheppard, MD, MMSc
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