Is your prosthetic eye hydrophobic?

hydrophobic hydrophilic artificial eye

Above, in a hydrophilic surface (left), liquid sheets across. In a hydrophobic surface (right), liquid collects in tight droplets.

In a well-made prosthetic eye, tears should flow evenly across the prosthesis just as they do over the natural eye — in a sheet-like fashion, rather than collecting in droplets. We call this type of behavior hydrophilic — “water loving.” Hydrophobic (“water fearing”) artificial eyes repel water, much like the surface of a waxed car.

Hydrophobic eye

A hydrophobic artificial eye. Notice the water droplets on the person’s right eye.

Hydrophilic eye

A hydrophilic artificial eye. The moisture on the person’s right eye sheets across the surface, as in the left (original) eye.

Treating the effects of hydrophobic pieces can be simple, but sometimes the piece may need to be remanufactured. Our office incorporates materials and processes to make our pieces as hydrophilic as possible and remove these properties. For example, we cure our eyes for long periods, to give the acrylic time to properly polymerize. We also polish our eyes at a low speed rather than going as quickly as we can. And finally we use special cleaners to maximize the integrity of the prosthesis. Chronic problems related to hydrophobic artificial eyes can lead to serious consequences.

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