What are the Different Types of Ocular Implants?

Synthia L. Rose

The different types of ocular implants include lens implants, artificial eyes, and eye jewelry. Lens implants typically replace natural lenses that have to be excised due to cataracts. Artificial eyes can replace eyes that have been removed or lost to physical trauma or disease. Jewelry implants are decorative eyewear. All these ocular implants require outpatient surgery and have recovery times ranging from a few hours for artificial lenses to two months for whole artificial eyes.

An ocular implant is installed during cataract surgery.
An ocular implant is installed during cataract surgery.

Lens implants can restore eyesight that has been marred due to increased cloudiness in the natural lens of the eye. They come in two varieties: monofocal and multifocal. Monofocal lens implants restore sight at a certain distance and therefore can treat just one type of vision, either farsightedness or nearsightedness. Multifocal lens implants, however, can restore vision at a range of distances. Many implant wearers claim that vision with ocular implants is much better than their natural vision ever was.

Cataracts occur when part of the eye is damaged and the eyes' lenses become cloudy.
Cataracts occur when part of the eye is damaged and the eyes' lenses become cloudy.

Using the same technology that allows magnification in microscopes, lens implants can allow users to see sharp and distinct sights in the world around them. The operation generally takes three hours to perform. Surgeons first make a small cut in the eye to remove the natural faulty lens and any cataracts. Then, the implant is placed into the eye through that same opening. Those who have had this ocular implant surgery generally find it eliminates their need to wear glasses.

Artificial eyes are the oldest type of ocular implant, first emerging in 2500 B.C. when Egyptians implanted false eyes made of marble and precious metals into corpses during mummification. Contemporary faux eyes come in the half-sphere or mold-eye style. The half-sphere is mass produced for a one-size-fits-all eye product. Eye doctors can taper the half-orb to make the fit more comfortable for patients, but the prosthetic is generally not fully individualized and retains considerable space at the rear of the eye.

The mold eye, as the name implies, is a custom-made eye created from a mold that is an exact replica of the patient’s eye socket. Doctors pour a liquid into the patient’s eye which soon solidifies into a rubber-like substance, thereby creating a mold. The ocular implant is then custom-created to exactly match the mold, offering a snugger fit than the half-sphere, with fewer air pockets and fewer spaces for bacteria to grow. No vision is restored with this implant.

Eye jewelry implants are tiny pieces of jewelry that can be placed underneath the conjunctiva. Most come in geometric and heart shapes. Made mostly out of platinum, some of have glitter and other shiny accents. These ocular implants offer no vision benefits. While some critics argue that these miniature jewelry pieces can become dislodged in the eye causing irritation and danger, surgeons who insert these decorative ocular implants contend that the jewelry is safe.

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