Skip to main content

"Lost" Contact Lenses: A Cautionary Tale

Jul 17, 2017
Woman holding contact lens
 Reports of doctors removing 27 disposable contact lenses from a 67-year-old British woman's eye hit the news over the weekend. While you may be wondering how in the world this happened and why the woman was "shocked" when doctors discovered that many lenses had clumped together in her eye, "It's actually not that uncommon for patients to accidentally put more than one lens in one eye," says David Meyer, OD, FAAO, director of Contact Lens Services at the Moran Eye Center.

"The more important takeaway," he notes, is that "this extreme case serves as a chance to remind patients of important dos and don'ts when it comes to contact lens care and monitoring."

"Just a couple of weeks ago, I had a patient who had two contact lenses in her eye," Meyer said. "She said that her vision had suddenly gotten worse in that eye and the world seemed 'off.' I always advise patients that if there is a sudden change in vision, or if it becomes cloudy, or if you experience discomfort, to simply take their contact lenses out and see their eye doctor."

Can Lenses Get Lost in Your Eye?

"It's true that contact lenses can decenter and move to another place in your eye. However, they cannot travel very far," notes Meyer. "If needed, your doctor can remove them from any location they could potentially go. I have some patients scared that a lens will get lodged in a corner forever, but that's just not the case."

If you happen to have dry eyes or have been swimming or in windy conditions, contact lenses are more likely to stick to your eyes. If you are having difficulty removing a lens, place a drop of artificial tears in your eye and that will help loosen up the contact lens and make it easier to remove.

Get a Yearly Exam and Be Careful Ordering Online

Contact lens wearers should get their eyes examined at least yearly. During those visits, your eye doctor not only checks on how well the contacts fit on your eyes, but how healthy your eyes are while wearing contact lenses.

Use caution when ordering your contact lenses online. Many online sellers will give you a different type of lens than you were prescribed, and those lenses may not be healthy for your eyes. Don't forget that a contact lens is a medical device that needs to be regularly checked.

Beyond those basics, Meyer offers this checklist:

  • Always follow your eye doctor's recommendations on how long you can wear your type of lens. Most are designed for one-month, two-week, or daily changes. When the time is up, be sure to throw them away. Don't "stretch out" your wearing time.
  • When you wear your contact lenses for too long, either during the day or past their normal schedule, you risk the possibility of serious, and even sight-threatening diseases. Over-wearing your contact lenses decreases the amount of oxygen that can supply your cornea and other ocular structures. This creates an environment where bacteria and other organisms can invade your eye. This situation can create redness, light sensitivity, decreased vision, tearing, and even a corneal ulcer.
  • Never sleep in your contact lenses unless your eye doctor gives you the OK. Studies have shown that people who sleep in their contact lenses have much higher rates of eye infections.
  • Clean and store your contact lenses as you have been directed. Remember, these are the only eyes you have, and cutting corners can cause devastating vision loss and other serious eye conditions.