Contact Stuck in Eye: How to Remove

Corrective contact lenses offer some advantages over eye-glasses, but they have their disadvantages as well. It is easy to place the framework that supports the pair of lenses of glasses on both ears and the bridge of our nose. Inserting a contact lens, placing it on the surface of our eyeball, can be considerably harder for quite a long time. Developing the tenacity to, effectively, poke ourselves in the eye on a daily basis is not easy for some people.

Cosmetic contact lenses, that change the wearer’s eye color, increase the apparent size of the eyes or both, are increasing in popularity, especially since the Lady Gaga video where she wore a pair. They were already popular with young women in Japan and South Korea. Such lenses may be more problematic than corrective contact lenses, simply because their wearer uses them less frequently and is therefore less experienced at placing and removing them. That they may well be trying to remove them at the end of a social evening while possibly heavily intoxicated just adds to the risk of eye damage.

The removal of a contact lens, extracting it from its close contact with our eye, can be either easier or considerably harder than putting one in. In the 32 year period that I have used contact lenses to improve my vision, I have never purchased or used hard contact lenses. As such, this article is about soft and disposable contact lenses and my experiences with them. The advice offered may be useful for hard contact lenses; if followed it will certainly not be detrimental!

Removing contact lens under normal circumstances, in a well-lit location with a sufficiently large mirror, becomes relatively easy in a fairly quick time. Practice making perfect, as they say. You can usually see the edge of the lens in your eye’s reflection. Using your thumb and forefinger you pinch the bottom edge very slightly to disrupt the contact between eye and lens and then the lens pulls out easily. Eventually you can forgo the mirror, but it still makes it easier even when you are well experienced.

It is extracting a contact lens in less than ideal circumstances that is most problematic. Especially if we are somewhat incapacitated by alcohol or drugs in the early hours of the morning. And, even more so, suffering the consequences of wearing them for longer than they are designed for.

Contact lenses “stick” in our eyes under two circumstances that I am aware of. When we stay awake for long periods of time and fail to blink our eyes sufficiently, maintaining their moisture level, they can dry out. If we are wearing soft contact lenses, which normally have a significant water content, the dehydration of our eyes also reduces the water content of the lens. This typically causes them to shrink slightly and adhere to the surface of the eyeball. The two surfaces stick together, removing the contact lens once this has occurred can also remove the surface tissue layers of our eyes, which leaves them vulnerable to infections.

When I was 17 years old and had just become employed full-time, I bought a pair of soft contact lens for the obvious reason of vanity. After an all night poker game I found the above had occurred and both my eyes became infected. For the next six weeks I was unable to wear my contact lenses and my eyes were perpetually bloodshot. As it was the late 1970s and considering my then reputation, most people I met under social circumstances thought my eye color meant I was currently stoned or badly hungover.

When this circumstance occurs, the eyes need to be liberally moistened before any effort is made to remove the lenses. If blinking produces enough moisture from the tear glands, all well and good. But if you have been up for long enough, especially while drinking alcohol, your body may be too dehydrated for the tear glands to be able to produce sufficient tears to moisten your eyes. In this case you will need to supply and apply an external source of moistening.

Contact lenses when not in use are stored in special cases, suspended in a liquid storage medium. This may be particularly for storage or a multi-purpose liquid. Either way, that liquid is ideal for moistening your eyes. Three or fours drops from the bottle into each eye, then close your eyes and rotate the eyeballs about. Within a minute or two, both eyes and lenses should be moistened sufficiently for them to be removed normally.

I strongly recommend against using plain water unless you have no alternative. Normal saline (saltwater) is far better as it can be used as a storage medium for contact lenses and should be available at any pharmacy or drugstore. Commercial eye-drops should only be used if they state clearly that they can be used in conjunction with contact lenses. Nevertheless, your eyes should be most used to the particular storage/soaking solution you use, so this would be best.

Contact lenses can also get stuck in our eyes when we are trying to put them in. When we attempt to emplace contact lenses that are too dry in eyes that are also relatively dry, they can stick to the surface. Typically, contact lenses are not placed directly into the eye at the location they will ultimately situate. They are generally placed off-center and then blinked into position.

If both the eye and the lens are too dry, the lens can stick where initially placed and fail to move to the focal location intended. This can occur if an edge of the lens was not covered by the soaking solution in its case, allowing that edge to dry and become a problem.

Rapid blinking of the afflicted eye can usually resolve this issue, but sometimes it can make it more severe instead. A lens stuck to outer regions of the eye can become stuck to the inner surface of the eyelid as well or instead. While repeated and rather frenzied blinking will inevitably result in such a lens being expelled from the eye, noticing that it has been is almost always very difficult for the contact lens wearer. And it never feels as though it has gone!

For several months after the fact, whether we are currently wearing a pair of contact lenses or not, we may get a recurring sensation at the back of the eye, that feels like the lost contact lens is stuck and hiding behind our eyeball. This can and does occur even if we have actually found the lens, on our cheek, in the wash basin or on the floor. Physical reality is always trumped by psychological perception.

The best way to avoid this situation is to ensure there is adequate moisture at the time of insertion. Once you have the bowl of the lens on the end of your finger ready for insertion, add two or three drops of your soaking solution into the bowl. Tip your head back and insert the lens with a quick motion so the solution as well as the lens goes into your eye. No matter how poorly stored the lens was, as long as it wasn’t completely dried out, or dry your eye is, this will work. If your eyes were particularly dry, they will no doubt feel quite soothed by the added moisture as well.