Ocularist

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An ocularist is someone who specializes in the fabrication and fitting of ocular prostheses for people who have lost an eye or eyes due to trauma or illness. The fabrication process for a custom made eye typically includes taking an impression of the eye socket, shaping a plastic shell, painting the iris and then fitting the ocular prostheses.

In addition to creating the prosthetic eye, they show the patient how to care for and handle the prosthesis. Ocularists may develop their skills from various background disciplines, for example medical, optometry, dental, nursing, biology, medical arts and illustration.

United States[edit]

Training and registration varies significantly worldwide. The American Society of Ocularists is the training organization for the worlds highest qualified Ocularists. The American Society of Ocularists teaches the fitting, fabrication, insertion, and maintenance of artificial eyes. The National Examining Board of Ocularists (N.E.B.O.) is the certifying agency for Ocularists in North America. NEBO designates the title of Board Certified Ocularist for Ocularists that have passed the NEBO examination. Those Ocularists that have achieved and maintained certification by NEBO are designated as Board Certified Ocularists, B.C.O. It is the intent of NEBO to provide a national standard that can be used as a measure of competence by interested agencies, groups and individuals. When deciding who is qualified to serve the patients' needs, the B.C.O. indicates experience, training, competence and generally many years of experience helping patients or constituents. An Ocularist with the title Board Certified Ocularist, (B.C.O.) has also pledged to make custom prosthetics as opposed to stock prosthetics. Custom prosthetics are important because they are custom made to fit and function properly in a patients socket, as opposed to a stock prosthetic that is fit according to what fits the patient from the stock eye makers limited available options. Custom prosthetic eyes are not available throughout the entire world.

There is not a specific training program of study to call a person an "ocularist" at the present time. Therefore, this field is practiced in many places by maxillofacial prosthodontists who are dentists who have undergone 3–4 years of specialty residency training. There are also technicians who practice this field as well after learning how to make artificial eyes through an apprenticeship program. There are also people who use the title of Ocularist who have had no formal training in the fitting, manufacture, and delivery of Ocular prosthetics.

Traditionally Ocularists hand paint the iris and sclera of an artificial eye. In the 1990s some ocularists began to use digital printing to enhance the natural appearance of the artificial eye. Digital artificial eyes are only made in a few ocularist offices.

The 2003 Sundance Film Festival award winning documentary short titled "Ocularist" demonstrates the process of creating an artificial eye. The film features board-certified Ocularist Fred Harwin as he creates an ocular prosthesis for a patient.