After removal of an eye
This page tells you about what happens after you have had your eye removed. You can find the following information
Looking after your eye socket
Your nurses will show you how to clean and care for your eye socket and the temporary plastic shell (conformer) you may have in it. It often helps to have a relative or friend with you at this session. They can help you and remind you of what you need to do when you get home.
Getting your artificial eye (prosthesis)
Once your eye heals, you will see a specialist who makes artificial eyes. At first you will have a temporary one fitted. The specialist will make a mould of your eye socket. A few weeks later you will be fitted with a permanent artificial eye that is exactly matched to your other eye.
Living with an artificial eye
If you have an artificial eye you can do most things as normal. By law you must let the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) and your car insurance company know. To carry on driving you will have to pass an eye test. You won’t be able to see to your left and right without turning your head as well as before. It is also more difficult to judge distance with only one eye.
Getting help and support
Losing your eye and the effect this has on your vision are big changes to go through. It is important to give yourself time to adjust. If you can, talk about your feelings to those close to you. There is more information in the living with eye cancer section.
You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the treating eye cancer section.
Before you leave hospital your nurses will show you how to clean and care for your eye socket and the temporary plastic shell (conformer) you may have in it. It often helps to have a relative or friend with you when the nurses show you how to care for your eye socket. They can help you and remind you of what you need to do when you get home.
You might find it hard to do all this for yourself at first. Taking care of the eye and socket can be distressing and you will need time to adjust to it. If you don’t feel able to cope with it yourself, the ward can arrange for a district nurse to visit you at home.
Always wash your hands before you touch the area around your empty socket. Don’t touch the eye socket itself. You will need to regularly clean your eyelids and remove any mucus. To do this, boil some water and allow it to cool. Moisten clean cotton balls in the cooled, boiled water and use them to wipe your eyelids clean.
Always start with the part of the eye nearest your nose and wipe towards your ear. If you need to wipe several times, use a new, moistened cotton ball each time you wipe. Tell your doctor or nurse if you find you are getting a lot of mucus on your eyelids. You might have an infection and need antibiotics.
If you have a conformer in your empty eye socket this will also need cleaning. At first this may be twice a day but your nurse will let you know about this before you leave hospital. Take the shell out of your eye socket, wash it in soapy water, rinse it well and put it back. It’s possible for the shell to fall out but this is very rare. If it does fall out, clean it as you normally would and put it back in place.
Before you leave hospital your doctor or nurse will prescribe some eye drops to use for a few weeks. These are to help prevent infection. You won’t need to remove the artificial shell to put your eye drops in.
Once your eye heals, your surgeon will make you an appointment to see a specialist who makes artificial eyes (an ocular prosthetist or ocularist). This is usually about 4 to 6 weeks after your operation. These specialists have a range of artificial eyes already made. You’ll have one of these fitted as a temporary artificial eye (prosthesis). This temporary eye won’t exactly match your other eye but it will be as similar as possible.
Before fitting your temporary eye, the prosthetist will make a mould of your eye socket. This is so they can make your permanent artificial eye. It is not painful but may feel a bit strange. They will also match the colour of your other eye using paint on the mould. The whole procedure takes about 2 hours. They will give you an appointment to have your permanent artificial eye fitted. This might be some weeks ahead because the artificial eyes are made individually.
Once your permanent artificial eye is in place it is very difficult for other people to tell the difference between your normal eye and the artificial one. It should look very similar to your other eye, and also have some movement.
Once your artificial eye has been put in you will be told how to clean and care for it. It is very rare that an artificial eye gets lost or needs replacing.
If you have an artificial eye you can do most things as normal. When you sleep it is better to leave your artificial eye in place. As soon as the eye socket heals you can wear eye make up and play sport as normal. But you should always wear goggles when swimming. If you dive or ski, doctors advise that you wear goggles or remove your artificial eye to prevent losing it.
If you have lost the sight in one eye the law states you must let the Driving and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) and your car insurance company know. This doesn’t mean you can’t carry on driving. But you will have to pass an eye test to make sure your vision meets DVLA standards. This usually means that you are able to read a car number plate from about 20 metres away in daylight, (with glasses on if you wear them). If your work involves a lot of driving then the rules are stricter.
You won’t be able to see to your left and right without turning your head as well as before. This is called your range of vision. When you are driving or crossing roads remember to turn your head more frequently to check either side. It is also more difficult to judge distance with only one eye. At first, you may find that you knock things over when reaching for them.
Losing your eye and the effect this has on your vision are big changes to go through. You are likely to feel a range of emotions, such as shock, anger, sadness, frustration, and possibly depression and grief. Although these are normal reactions they are still difficult to cope with. It’s really important that you give yourself time to adjust to the changes. It will get better but it takes time and patience. If you can, lean on the people close to you during this time. Just letting others know how you are feeling and having them there to support you can make a big difference.
Some people may feel that their eye is still there. Or they may see things that are not really there. Doctors call these visual hallucinations. Don’t worry if this happens. It is only temporary. It is as if your brain is realising that one of your eyes has gone and it’s having trouble losing its memory of past vision from that eye.
You also have to come to terms with changes in the way you look, even if other people don’t always notice that you have an artificial eye. Whatever the reaction of others, this can take time to come to terms with. If surgery has scarred your face you may be able to have further surgery to help correct this. It is important that you talk to your doctor about any questions or worries you have.
Look in the living with eye cancer section for help and support with
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