Ocularist Addresses Optometry Students

UKZN’s Optometry Discipline hosted a talk by one of only 12 Ocularists in South Africa, Mr Peter Furber.

Furber began his career as a dental technician and thereafter worked at Durban University of Technology doing maxillo-facial work and manufacturing ocular prostheses.

When an eye is surgically removed due to cancer, chronic diseases, accidents or violence, eg when children are involved in trauma related to fireworks, pranks or sharp objects, ocular prosthesis are used to fill the space left after the natural eye is removed. If no prosthesis is fitted, the muscles in the eye socket lose their tone and slacken and the eyelids and eyelashes turn inwards which could be a source of infection. Patients are often fitted with an implant and the artificial eye is designed to fit over this implant, helping to create a more natural appearance.

Furber is currently running an Eyecraft laboratory in Durban North. His interest in this area prompted him to further his skills and he has presented his work on ocular prosthetics at international conferences. He has been involved in the manufacture of artificial eyes for the past 20 years and covers all aspects of ocular prosthetics. He provides stock prostheses which are available in various sizes and shapes as well as those customised for a specific patient.

The customised prostheses require about three to four patient visits and can take up to two weeks to manufacture since most of the details are molded and hand painted. An impression of the patient’s socket is taken to ensure the fit of the prosthesis is exact. The ocularist ensures the best possible match with the existing eye and fit is considered successful when the prosthesis cannot be recognised as artificial. An artificial eye should be replaced every five years. However, with children, the prosthesis fit is monitored based on the child’s growth as it is necessary to increase its size to stimulate the growth of the orbit.

The students enjoyed the lecture, which included general information about ocular prosthesis as well as interesting case studies. They were impressed by the work that ocularists are involved in. Optometry Academic Leader, Dr Diane van Staden said the students gained an understanding of and appreciation for these important members of the eye healthcare chain.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini