75°F
weather icon Clear

Las Vegan wants to educate others about prosthetic eyes

When Cynthia De Boer tried to defend a friend at age 17, a blow to the left side of her face caused a retinal detachment. Doctors could not determine whether the blow alone or her pre-existing eye conditions, which included glaucoma, caused the detachment, but the removal of her left eye was deemed necessary.

Now 56, she has lived since then with a prosthetic left eye, nearly indistinguishable from her right.

“For me, the hardest part about the whole thing — because we’re talking 1977 — was no information,” the Las Vegan says. “You didn’t know what to expect. You didn’t know how it was going to look. You didn’t know what the whole procedure was going to be.”

In the intervening years, the procedure for creating a prosthetic eye has remained mostly unchanged. Although the internet provides a wealth of information, De Boer believes prosthetic eyes are a taboo subject that the public remains relatively uneducated about. She tries to fill in some of that information gap with her book, “Me, Myself and Eye,” which she self-published in June.

Although limb prostheses are comparably noticeable, most people have probably spoken with someone who has a prosthetic eye without knowing it, says Eric Lindsey, the ocularist who made De Boer’s eye.

In De Boer’s experience, when people find out she has a prosthetic eye, some express surprise. Others ask if she can pop it out for them. Still others become uncomfortable, not wanting to make eye contact.

“The lack of knowledge, the lack of understanding, the lack of compassion, it just needs to be fixed,” De Boer says. “It just really needs to be fixed.”

When Lindsey, who splits his time among the Prosthetic Artists offices in Las Vegas; Sacramento, California; and Hawaii, tells people what he does, he’s met with similar ignorance.

“I say, ‘I make prosthetic eyes,’ and all of a sudden there’s a flood of questions,” Lindsey says. “’Can they see out of it?’ No, they can’t see out of it. ‘Well, does it move?’ Yeah, it does move. ‘Well, how does it move?’”

Above all, many still associate prosthetic eyes with “glass eyes,” although prostheses have not been made of glass since before World War II. In fact, prosthetic eyes are not even spheres; they’re acrylic shells, similar to a thick contact lens.

People of all ages can receive a prosthesis for a variety of reasons, including trauma, cancer, long-standing medical conditions or injury. Ultimately, the decision to remove the eye and replace it with a prosthesis is either because of pain or for cosmetic reasons, Las Vegas ocular prosthetic surgeon Janice Eggert says. Blindness alone is not a reason to remove an eye.

“It’s something that you have to be OK with and be psychologically ready,” Eggert says. “A lot of patients, either the pain is too much or they get tired of it after a few years and they say, ‘Hey let’s just do this.’”

Once someone decides to replace their eye with a prosthesis, an ocular prosthetic surgeon such as Eggert removes the damaged eye and attaches a permanent round implant to the muscles at the back of the eye socket. The surgery takes an hour; recovery time is about two months.

When the swelling has completely gone down, the patient visits an ocularist such as Lindsey to have their prosthesis created. The process is more artistic than medical. Ocularists do not require any medical training; they often apprentice with an experienced ocularist and can become board-certified by the American Society of Ocularists, although that certification is not required to begin creating prosthetic eyes.

Lindsey has a fine arts background, while Janet Chao, a full-time Las Vegas ocularist with Prosthetic Artists, has degrees in bioengineering, scientific illustration and medical illustration.


 

An ocularist first takes an impression of the eye socket, including the implant that makes up the bulk of the eye’s volume, with either dental alginate or a silicone material. Then, he crafts the prosthesis from an acrylic material. Rather than being entirely spherical, the prosthesis is concave on the back and sits atop the implant like a large, thick contact lens. The prosthesis moves with the implant behind it.

“I’m trying to give as much function and movement and symmetry as possible based on what’s there,” Lindsey says.

Then, when Lindsey or Chao are making a prosthesis, they will sit before the patient and hand paint the prosthesis with oil paints, using tiny red threads for the blood vessels and only seven shades to create anyone’s unique iris. An acrylic, heat cured coating gives the eye shine and dimension. Ocularists across the country have varying methods, with some digitally designing the iris.

Once the process is finished, the patient returns to her ocularist every six months for cleaning and polishing. She receives an entirely new prosthesis about every five years as her eye and eye sockets change.

At Lindsey’s Las Vegas office, where he works two days out of the month, he estimates he makes four to 10 eyes each month. In Sacramento, he makes about an eye a day, with 40 to 60 each year being a patient’s first prosthesis.

Those with prosthetic eyes can do anything that people with two seeing eyes can do, with the exception of activities that put an above-average amount of pressure on the eye, such as snorkeling or riding a roller coaster.

For those who’ve gone through considerable pain, eventually receiving a prosthesis is a relief, Lindsey says. The doctor’s appointments, discomfort and effort to find a solution for their condition are over. Although De Boer agrees, she also emphasized the grief people should acknowledge that comes with the loss of an eye.

Initially she felt defeat because she’d tried for many years to save an eye with considerable health conditions.

“It is a loss, period. And you need to go through the grieving process just like you would anything else,” De Boer says. “And once you get past all of that, you really need to develop a sense of humor.”

Read more from Sarah Corsa at reviewjournal.com. Contact her at scorsa@reviewjournal.com and follow @sarahcorsa on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Heavier traffic expected from EDC festival attendees
Electric Daisy Carnival attendees began to vacate the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting before 5 a.m., the majority heading south on Interstate 15.
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DJ Steve Aoki visits Las Vegas comic book store
DJ Steve Aoki visits Torpedo Comics in Las Vegas Friday, May 17, 2019, for a signing for his new comic book series "Neon Future." (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Making the Space Invader at Greene St. Kitchen in Las Vegas
Lysa Huerta, pastry cook at Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms in Las Vegas, starts with angel food cake, Fruity Pebbles ice cream and strawberry sorbet to create a space creature engulfed in flashing lights and swirling mists. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Pools
The M, Park MGM and NoMad are just a few great pools in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jose Andres explains Iberico pork
(Al Mancini/Las Vega Review-Journal)
Inside Life is Beautiful
Craig Asher Nyman explains how Life is Beautiful festival is booked and talks about this year's line-up. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America Pops Up In Vegas
Tattoo'd America, a new pop-up attraction on the Linq Promenade, had their grand opening Friday. The attraction is dedicate to the culture of tattoos. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jose Andres gets key to the Strip
Chef Jose Andres was presented with a Key to the Las Vegas Strip and a proclamation declaring April 26 Jose Andres Day in Clark County by County Commissioner Tick Segerblom on Friday. The ceremony took place at his restaurant Bazaar Meat in the SLS Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sadelle’s in Las Vegas makes a grilled cheese with an inverted bagel
Michael Vargas, executive sous chef at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas, inverts an everything bagel and grills it with Swiss, cheddar and Muenster cheeses to make the Inverted Bagel Grilled Cheese. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures
Kassandra Lopez at Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prime rib is carved tableside at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Las Vegas
Dave Simmons, executive chef of Lawry’s The Prime in Las Vegas, which plans special cuts for National Prime Rib Day, demonstrates the restaurant’s service from rolling tableside carving carts. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making gluten-free pizza at Good Pie in Las Vegas
Good Pie owner/pizzaiola Vincent Rotolo makes his gluten-free pizza.
Rockabilly fans enjoy Las Vegas weather poolside
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender runs Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, April 21st with a huge car show on Saturday featuring The Reverend Horton Heat, The Delta Bombers and The Coasters. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST