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How to Determine the Best Prosthetic Eye Lubricant for You

Image of various prosthetic eye lubricants

The Five-Step Process for Finding Your Ideal Lubricant Combination

The last thing you want to experience with your prosthetic eye is discomfort. You want your artificial eye to look and feel like a real eye. The key to achieving this natural feeling is to find the right combination of lubricant and artificial tears.

Especially in their first few months, many prosthetic eye wearers experience a condition similar to dry eye. It can be a frustrating and sometimes painful experience. ‘Dry eye’ is a common condition that afflicts many people, even those who still have both natural eyes.

If it feels like your prosthetic eye is scraping against your eyelid, or if it feels dry or itchy, this is a sure indication that you need to properly lubricate your eye.

This article will give you a process by which you can determine the best prosthetic eye lubricant for you. It won’t be the same for everyone, as you’re about to see. So you can’t go on recommendations from other people — what worked for them might not work for you.

Why Your Prosthetic Eye Gets Dry

With a prosthetic eye, your eye socket doesn’t produce enough natural lubricant. In addition, your eyelids may be compromised in their functionality. As a result, your tear production declines, and you get the feeling of a dry, itchy eye.

External conditions can also increase the dryness of your prosthetic eye. This can include weather that is dry or very cold, wind, dust, airline recycled air, and other conditions.

Other reasons your prosthetic eye can get dry include:

  • Not drinking enough water
  • Age – older people tend to have drier eyes
  • Natural reasons – some people just have drier eyes
  • Menstruation

Whatever the cause, with reduced tear production comes increased discomfort.

The Three Layers of Eye Moisture

The layer of liquid that coats your eyeball and keeps it comfortable is called the ‘tear film.’ The tear film is composed of three layers — the mucus layer, the aqueous layer, and the oil layer.

diagram of the tear film, showing various layers

If any one of these three layers is missing, your eyes will feel itchy, and you will experience an uncomfortable scraping feeling against your eyelid.

Of the three, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have a shortage of mucus. Your body’s natural reaction to almost any problem in the eye socket is to produce more mucus. Whatever goes wrong – mucus! If you have a prosthetic eye, too much mucus causes its own set of problems, because it can stick to the artificial eye and cause discomfort.

Therefore, the solution to a dry eye socket is almost always to restore the aqueous layer, the oil layer, or both. This is what lubrication achieves.

So, now that you understand the problem, you probably also see why the solution isn’t simple.

If the problem is a lack of oil, that requires a different lubricant than a deficiency in the aqueous layer. If both layers are in short supply, yet another solution will be needed.

A couple facts to keep in mind:

Your aqueous layer – mostly water – makes up about 80% of your tear film. The oil and mucus layers make up about 10% each.

Artificial tears, sold in most drug stores, restore the aqueous layer. Oil lubricant restores the oil layer. A healthy oil layer has a greater and longer-lasting effect on your comfort level. But you need both. Only using artificial tears, if a shortage in the oil layer is the problem, will result in continuing frustration.

Here’s a process you can use to determine the right combination of oil lubricant and artificial tears.

Determining the Best Combination of Tears and Oil for Your Artificial Eye

We recommend a process of experimentation to find the right combination of lubricants and drops. Here’s a suggested procedure:

1. Start with One Type of Oil Lubricant

Most people prefer Sil-optho oil drops, which tend to last the longest. The other option for the oil layer would be some sort of natural oil, such as Vitamin E, Aloe Vera, or safflower.

Depending on your condition, Vitamin E drops have been known to be quite soothing. In general, natural oils will break apart sooner than the synthetic ones.

So choose a type of oil lubricant and move to step 2.

2. Choose an Artificial Tear Solution

All brands of artificial tear drops use some form of saline solution. Some have more preservatives while some have small amounts of oil lubricant. If your drops ever cause pain of any sort, including stinging, remove that type from your list.

With your oil lubricant and drops now selected, use them both according to the directions on the bottles. If your first combination of drops is not working, you will feel it and still experience discomfort and itchiness.

3. Use Your Initial Combination for Several Days in a Row

You can’t test each combination of drops for just one day. You must give your body time to adjust to each new combination of lubricants and artificial tears. Give yourself at least three days for each combination.

Here’s our recommended initial combination of drops and lubricant:

Start with one drop of lubricant combined with 2-3 drops of artificial tear. Apply this combination every couple hours throughout the day. It’s a good idea to make sure you begin and end each day with this same combination to get the tear film started right away and to extend the tear film into the night.

If your first combination seems to work, congratulations – you’re done! If not, proceed to step 4.

4. Adjust One Variable at a Time

This is very important. If your first combination doesn’t work, you don’t know the reasons why. It could be the type of oil or the tear drops. But it could also be the number of drops, or how often you put them in. Plus, how long does the relief last? Maybe your comfort level is great, but after a couple hours, your eyes are itching again. That’s a sign you haven’t found the best lubricant yet.

So adjust one variable at a time, use that new combination for several days, and evaluate again.

Variables to adjust include:

  • Number of drops of oil lubricant
  • Number of drops of artificial tears
  • How frequently you use your drops
  • Type of oil lubricant
  • Type of artificial tears

5. Repeat Steps 3 and 4 Until You Experience Long-Lasting Relief

You may find a great combination within a week or it could take as long as a month.

And remember, when certain external conditions change, you may need to find a new combination for those situations. For example, if your climate changes from humid to dry during different seasons, you may need a different combination for each season.

polishing a prosthetic eyeTwo Caveats to Remember

First, remember to pay attention to your hydration levels. If you aren’t consistently hydrated, your experiment will be compromised. Be sure to stay hydrated during your entire investigation.

Second, make sure to get your prosthetic eye polished regularly. If your artificial eye has scratches, or isn’t clear of bacteria or other debris, this will probably increase mucus production and will negate the effects of your lubricants.

So if you have a lubricant combination that seems to work great, but after a few months it feels like it stopped working, the problem probably is not the lubricant.

The more likely explanation is that something else has changed. And it may be that your prosthetic needs to be cleaned.

Managing your artificial eye can seem like a lot of work. However, you’ll get a good feel for your body after a while, and you’ll learn how to identify when something is off and what you can do to remedy it.

Your First Experiment

If you want a place to start, you can get our preferred choices for oil lubricants and artificial tears in our online store.