For new contact lens wearers, a common worry is that a lens will become dislodged, and potentially move behind the eye and become stuck. Although it's possible for a contact lens to get stuck to the surface of your eye, the good news is that there's simply no way it can get lost, or trapped at the back. The anatomy of the eye itself acts as a barrier, which ensures that the lens will always remain on the surface, so you'll be able to quickly and easily retrieve it.
When this does happen, it can be both annoying and uncomfortable, but the best approach is to stay calm and follow these simple steps. If you're having difficulty or your eye is becoming sore then just pay a visit to your optometrist for further medical advice. They'll be able to remove the lens swiftly with no pain and check your eye to ensure that there isn't any damage.
What happens if a contact lens gets stuck in my eye?
While the eye is certainly a very delicate and complex part of the body, it's still very well protected. Unwanted foreign bodies like dust or eyelashes are simply washed away by tears, or pushed against the conjunctiva, the soft pink tissue which completely surrounds the eyeball, until they find their own way out.
Contact lenses are designed to aid in this process, offering a smooth, even surface that allows those dust particles to fall away. But even if the lenses become dislodged and stuck to the surface of the eyeball (e.g. if you take a nasty fall during a sport), you can be rest assured that the conjunctiva simply won't allow the lens to fall behind the eyeball and out of reach.
Usually, it's more common for a soft contact lens to get stuck on the surface rather than a gas permeable lens, but there's a chance it can, too. It's important to note, however, that the method of removing a hard permeable lens is somewhat different.
How to remove a soft contact lens from your eye
When a contact lens gets stuck on the surface of your eye or has been dislodged, it's likely that it has folded in half or shifted under your upper eyelid. To remove a dislodged lens, we recommend that you follow these steps to avoid causing your eyes harm.
- First, wash your hands thoroughly, before adding a few drops of contact lens solution, sterile saline or rewetting eye drops to your eye, lubricating the lens and rinsing out your eye.
- Close your eye and gently massage the eyelid one way, and then in the opposite direction, aiming to locate the lens and move it into a position where you can see it more easily to remove it.
- If you're struggling, don't panic - just repeat steps 1 and 2, allowing the solution or eye drops to soak the affected area, so the lens moves. Massage your eyelid again to encourage the lens to return to its original position, and don't apply more lubrication if your eyes are watering heavily. Rather wipe away the excess moisture and use a dry finger to try and retrieve the lens.
In the case that encouraging the contact lens to its proper position or in an accessible place to retrieve is unsuccessful, you can alternatively turn your eyelids inside out. To do this, place a cotton wool bud across the tips of your eyelashes and, while looking downwards, take hold of your eyelashes and turn your eyelid inside out with a rapid movement. Take care not to do this too forcefully as a gentle action will suffice. By tipping your head backwards you should be able to see the contact lens and you'll be able to remove it from behind your eyelid. Enlisting the help of a family member or friend can make this method much easier, too.
How to remove a gas permeable contact lens from your eye
If you wear contact lenses that are gas permeable, and one gets stuck, don't massage the eyelid, as this can cause abrasion to the eye. The best way forward is to reach out to your optician, and under their guidance, use a small 'suction cup' device to gently pull the lens from the surface.
If the lens is stuck on the white of the eye, use the pad of your fingertip to gently press your eye just outside the edge of the lens to break the suction that is keeping the contact stuck in the eye.
Tips to prevent contact lenses from getting stuck in your eye
- It's essential to always take your lenses out before going to sleep, unless you're wearing extended wear lenses, under the guidance of your optician. Sleeping with your lenses prevents oxygen from reaching the cornea, causing you to wake up with uncomfortable, dry eyes, and possibly a stuck contact lens. Say you do accidentally nod off with your lenses in, don't take them out straight away. Instead, massage your eyes to naturally produce moisture, drink lots of water for rehydration and apply some eye drops to act as artificial tears.
- Two-weekly and monthly lens wearers must maintain a good eye care routine, involving storing and cleaning their lenses in a multi-purpose solution every night, so they’re thoroughly disinfected from harmful bacteria and less likely to get dislodged.
- Never shower or swim with your contact lenses, as water whether it's from the sea, a river or tap water can contaminate them with bacteria and cause them to lose their original shape.
- New contact lens wearers should check out our handy video tutorials for applying and removing their lenses. By implementing these popular methods, you can get more comfortable and confident with the techniques.