Frequently Asked Questions

We are hoping this page will provide answers to some of your most frequently asked questions. If you have a question that is not covered here, please email us.

What is an ocularist?

An ocularist is a carefully trained technician skilled in the arts of fitting, shaping, and painting ocular prostheses. In addition to creating it, the ocularist shows the patient how to handle and care for the prosthesis, and provides long-term care through periodic examinations.

How long have artificial eyes been around?

Artificial eye-making has been practiced since ancient times. The first ocular prostheses were made by Roman and Egyptian priests as early as the fifth century B.C. In those days, artificial eyes were made of painted clay attached to cloth and worn outside the socket.

It took many centuries for the first in-socket artificial eyes to be developed. At first, these were made of gold with colored enamel. Then, in the later part of the sixteenth century, the Venetians started making artificial eyes out of glass. These early glass eyes were crude, uncomfortable to wear, and very fragile. Even so, the Venetians continued making them and kept their methods secret until the end of the eighteenth century. After that, the center for artificial eye-making shifted to Paris for a time; but by the mid-nineteenth century, German glass-blowers had developed superior techniques, and the center for glass eye-making moved to Germany.

Shortly thereafter, glass eye-making was introduced in the United States. During World War II, the imported German glass used for glass prostheses became unavailable in this country. As a result of this shortage, the U.S. Government, in conjunction with a number of American firms, popularized the techniques for making artificial eyes out of acrylic plastic.

The popularity of this method has continued to increase over the years, and today the vast majority of patients wear ocular prostheses made of acrylic.

What's the difference between "stock" and "custom" eyes?

"Stock" or "ready-made" ocular prostheses are mass-produced. Since a "stock eye" is not made for any particular person, it doesn’t fit any particular patient. A "custom" ocular prosthesis, on the other hand, is made by your ocularist to fit you and you alone.

How often do you have to see an ocularist?

The ocular prosthesis, like hard contact lenses, needs to be polished regularly in order to restore the acrylic finish and insure the health of the surrounding tissues. It is generally recommended that infants under 3 years of age be seen every 3 months; patients under 9 twice yearly, and all other patients at least once a year.

Does medical insurance pay for artificial eyes?

If insurance coverage is available, most ocularist offices will assist you in every possible way to obtain full benefits of your policy. However, it should be noted that the patient, or in the case of children, a parent or guardian is always responsible for payment...and in the case of HMO'S it is always necessary to obtain a referral before work can begin.

What is the American Society of Ocularists?

The American Society of Ocularists (ASO) is a professional organization which was established by a group of skilled American ocularists in 1957. Their purpose was to promote high standards through research and education in the field of ophthalmic prosthetics. Today the ASO maintains quality ocularistry through its formal education, training and continuing education programs.

How do I find a good ocularist?

In most states, there are no laws governing ocularists. When choosing an artificial eyemaker, you should consult your state regulations and look for the following credentials:

  • Membership in the American Society of Ocularists
  • Certification by the National Examining Board of Ocularists

How does a person learn to become an ocularist?

There are no schools that teach ocularistry. A person must learn how to make artificial eyes through an apprenticeship with an approved ocularist (a Board Approved Diplomate Ocularist). The ASO Apprentice Program requires that the apprentice must study all aspects of ocular prosthetics, and spend five years (10,000 hours) in practical training. The apprentice must also successfully complete 750 credits of related study courses offered by the Education Program of the ASO. Upon successful completion of all requirements, the title, Diplomate of the American Society of Ocularists, is awarded.

Does the Society arrange apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships are not arranged by the American Society of Ocularists. A person seeking training must contact ocularists in their area and locate someone who is able to hire and train an apprentice. For people willing and able to relocate, we suggest attending one of the bi-annual conferences to meet ocularists from different parts of the country.

Can I apprentice with any ocularist?

To qualify for the Society’s apprenticeship program, you must train with a Board Approved Diplomate Ocularist (BADO).

I already make artificial eyes. Do I have to become an apprentice?

Persons who are already working as ocularists may apply to the Society’s Associate program.

Aren’t there classes I can take somewhere to learn to become an ocularist?

The American Society of Ocularists is the only organization that offers educational training in ocularistry. Classes are offered at the Society’s bi-annual meetings, and are designed to prepare ocularists to take their certification exams.

I’m in school now. What courses should I take to increase my chances of becoming an apprentice?

The sciences provide a good base, in addition to taking extensive courses in art, sculpting, communicative skills and applied psychology.

Who certifies ocularists?

The National Examining Board of Ocularists (NEBO) is an independent entity whose directors come from the following participating organizations:

  • American Academy of Ophthalmology
  • American Board for Certification of Orthotics and Prosthetics
  • American Society of Ocularists
  • Canadian Society of Ocularists
  • Public Member

NEBO awards the title, Board Certified Ocularist (BCO), to those ocularists who successfully complete a comprehensive two-part written and practical examination. All BCOs must complete continuing education requirements and be recertified by NEBO every six years.