Exploding eyes

Dramatic in-socket reactions...

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Artificial eyes have proved uncomfortable to wear; some have reacted with bodily fluids; others have actually imploded because blown glass shells contained internal vacuums! This was the case in 1916 when The Ophthalmological Record mentions no fewer than eighteen cases of shattering eyes. Four patients suffered this unnerving experience on two separate occasions! A review in the British Journal of Ophthalmology (1921) notes:

Exploded glass eye

Damaged artificial eye
showing its two-part
shell construction

It would appear that quite a number of these eyes explode in the manufacturer's stores before they are sent out. The cause of the collapse of the thin walls is due to the fact that the glass is imperfectly annealed and encloses a partial vacuum of rather high degree and any sudden change of temperature is apt to produce unequal expansion or contraction of the glass which is unequal in thickness and which is then less able to withstand the continuous atmospheric pressure...most of the explosions have happened during either very hot or very cold weather.

The more the eye was worn the greater the risk of a bang...

Another factor is the destructive effect of the orbital discharge of certain patients. It is recognised that some patients find their artificial eyes deteriorate from discolouration and erosion much more quickly than others.

These phenomena were observed during the First World War. The driving force of armed conflict and the injuries sustained as its result was a vehicle for technological change. In 1917 the French Dr Henri Einius produced a prosthesis that could be worn even when there was no eyelid remaining. Better examples were designed later in the 20th century as artificial eyes ceased being considered as just a cosmetic remedy (allowing you to discard the bandage or eye patch) but also a hygienic remedy. Greater awareness arose of the after-care needs of prosthesis wearers for whom the underlying problems might continue to include dry eye, recurrent growths and infection.

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