How to remove folded stuck contact lens?
April 12, 2009 10:49 AM   Subscribe

I have a contact lens that has folded on itself and is stuck in the extreme upper corner of my eye. How do I get it out? The usual methods haven't worked.

The lens has been in there for the last 3 days or so. After a lot of saline solution I spotted it sitting on my eyeball, but repeated attempts to move it with my finger didn't work. More saline and eyeball poking led to it shifting to a much harder to reach corner of my eye. I've tried:
- closing my eye and using my finger to gently shift the lens around through the lid
- blinking furiously
- lots of eye drops
- putting a finger on my eyeball while eye is closed and looking in all directions
- looking in all directions while eye is open

Any other suggestions? Should I see an optometrist?
posted by nihraguk to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Go see your optometrist/opthamologist. I'm not sure there is any way you can get it out yourself at this point.
posted by radioamy at 10:58 AM on April 12, 2009

Yeah, I don't know what risk of fucking up your eye this presents, but generally when I'm at "ZOMG THING STUCK IN CRUCIAL SENSORY APPARATUS" I head for the doctor and quick.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:07 AM on April 12, 2009

What radioamy said. This happens to people from time to time and you need a pro to assist. You don't want to risk scratching your eye by messing around with it too much if it won't come out easily (a friend did this; she had to wear an eye patch for a week after that).

Don't worry, they won't think you're stupid. This has happened to two friends of mine and I'm pretty sure it's a common occurrence.
posted by different at 11:09 AM on April 12, 2009

There is a little soft suction cup on the end of a handle thing you can get at walgreens or like stores. I used to use one to get my Toric lenses out as a kid.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 11:10 AM on April 12, 2009

Also: a pro will have it out for you in a matter of moments. It's not a big deal, it's just a nuisance.

Good luck!
posted by different at 11:12 AM on April 12, 2009

I think the soft suction cup works only on gas-permeable and hard lenses, not soft lenses that have folded upon themselves. It needs a relatively hard and dry plastic curve to adhere to.

It's taken me up to an hour to remove a folded soft contact, but after that point, I'd get to a doctor. Three days of poking -- even with clean fingers -- has probably irritated your eye and brought in more bacteria than usual. You're not risking just a corneal scratch, you're risking an infection. Stop touching it yourself and see an optometrist or opthamologist ASAP. If there is an urgent care/walk-in clinic open in your area today, see if they can do anything.
posted by maudlin at 11:19 AM on April 12, 2009

The first time I had a lens stuck, seemingly irretrievably, I eventually started crying in frustration... and the lens slipped out.

caveat 1: Mind you, this was a question of hours, not days. Yikes.
caveat 2: If saline hasn't helped, crying might not, either.

This may be blindingly obvious, but have you tried the trick where you put your fingertip gently but firmly on the skin just below the arch of your eyebrow and lightly pull it up, so that your eyelid pulls ever-so-slightly away from the eyeball? I find that when a folded lens has tucked itself inside the eye, I need to pull my eyelid away like this, then blink several times, to push the lens out where I can reach it with my fingertip. I am not a doctor. This is not medical advice. I am describing a technique that works for me.

The basic strategy I use, standing before a mirror so I can see the eye:
- Wash hands thoroughly.
- Remember that every step here is gently performed! The skin of the eye is delicate; the eye even more so!
- Seat my fingertip (I instinctively use the ring finger for this) under my brow, just under the outside arch of eyebrow if the lens is stuck on the ear-side of eyeball; just under the inside arch of brow if it's stuck on the nose-side of eyeball.
- Gently pull the skin slightly upward, so the eyelid pulls up ever so slightly from eyeball.
- With the affected eye, look in the direction opposite the stuck lens; if the lens is stuck on the nose-side, look toward the ear, and vice versa.
- If this brings the contact into view, try to "grab" it with a fingertip from the free hand. If it isn't in view, blink a few times, quick winks with pauses between to give the lens a chance to swim forward.

When I do this, I do not touch my eye at all, only the skin and the lens. Sometimes, I don't even touch the lens, because it winks right out of my eye when I pull up and blink a few times.

That said, three days is a long time to have a stuck lens. It means you're sleeping and showering and whatever-ing with a foreign object in your eye. If you cannot remove it quickly, please do call your optometrist's office and ask for advice.
posted by Elsa at 11:32 AM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

N-thing those who say go to the optometrist. I had a contact come apart in my eye (it was old and should have been replaced long before, but I was broke). After a day or so, I called in and they had me come in right away so the doctor could fish out the pieces. From the reaction of the staff, it seemed like that sort of thing is not that uncommon.
posted by weathergal at 12:16 PM on April 12, 2009

Do you have a friend with a steady hand who can go in there after it for you?
posted by gjc at 12:48 PM on April 12, 2009

I hate to say it, but yeah, you want an eye doc-- an optometrist could do it as well as an ophthalmologist-- with forceps.

Yes, forceps. Been there, done that. It'll take the pro all of four seconds. The biggest time sink will be the time it takes you to stop squicking at the idea of forceps and your eyeball in close proximity.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 1:33 PM on April 12, 2009

I've waited over a week and finally had them pop out.
posted by whoda at 1:46 PM on April 12, 2009

You didn't mention what kinds of eye drops you had tried but I'd suggest Refresh Liquigel if you haven't used it already. It's very thick (enough to blur your vision if you use too much of it) and I've found it particularly useful when I've fallen asleep with my contacts still in and then can't get them out because they've "stuck" to my very dry eyeball. Dump what may feel like a ridiculous amount in your eye and then lie down with your eyes closed for a while. It might provide enough cushioning between the lens and the surface of your eye for you to push the lens into a retrievable position.
posted by fuse theorem at 2:36 PM on April 12, 2009

I had an extra in there for weeks unknowingly (thought it had fallen out) and one day it came out with it's replacement. AFAIK, I sustained no ocular damage.

My usual method when this happens is to hold my eyelid open and to "blink" furiously (obviously not really blinking, since the eyelid is held open). It coaches the contact down far enough so I can grab it myself. YMMV.
posted by messylissa at 2:40 PM on April 12, 2009

Try an eye wash from the drugstore. It's saline solution, plus a special little cup. That's what my eye doctor recommended when I had half a lens in my eye.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:00 PM on April 12, 2009

Do you have a friend with a steady hand who can go in there after it for you?

I'm no eye doctor but that's got bad news written all over it. It's your eye, don't let your friend's fingers all up in there.
posted by BrnP84 at 3:01 PM on April 12, 2009

I've been the friend with clean hands and short fingernails in this situation and it usually gets the lens out. You need a friend, so that they can look at your eye, while you look all the way down/away.

I'd get a friend to wash their hands and try this before I went to the eye doctor. The whites of the eyes aren't as delicate wrt to scratching. I would not, however, let anyone without a medical degree use any sort of tool near my eye.
posted by mercredi at 3:55 PM on April 12, 2009

You mentioned lots of eyedrogs, but have you tried FLOODING the eye with eyedrops or saline solution? I don't mean a few drops, I mean looking upwards and filling up your eye, and letting it sit for a while (say, 30 seconds). It won't be painful at all, but it is slightly weird feeling. You can repeat that a couple times and see if the lens loosens up. That has worked for me in the past to get a lens unstuck - but, it had only been stuck for a little while (not sure how long; I slept it in and then couldn't get it out when I tried in the morning).

If the lens is no longer stuck but just hard to reach, I keep my eye open and look as far as I can in whatever direction makes the corner of the lens appear - then i put my finger on it and drag it over to the center of my eye and take it out. If you don't get the lens unstuck and sliding around first, this would likely not work and/or damage your eyeball.
posted by insectosaurus at 4:17 PM on April 12, 2009

I hate when this happens - never had one last that long though. The last one I had stuck I managed to get out by pushing gently downward through the eye lid onto the stuck lense and edging it gently downward. This took a while, but worked in the end. Good luck!
posted by prentiz at 4:49 PM on April 12, 2009

When this happens to me, I use my vintage eye bath glass (like this ) with saline. In a pinch, a shotglass filled with saline might do.
posted by peagood at 5:42 PM on April 12, 2009

I "pop" my eyelids (combined with some of the other maneuvers described here) to remove hard-to-reach / stuck / dry contact lenses sometimes.
I use my thumb and forefinger, and kinda place one finger on either side of my closed eye (so that those fingers are on either side of the eyeball... you know how your closed eye makes a horizontal line? I put my thumb and forefinger at each end of the horizontal line), and then I gently squeeze so that the eyelid kinda "pops" away from the actual eyeball.
You could try that, combined with an eyewash and looking downwards in the opposite angle so that the contact lens is easier to reach.
(also, make sure your fingernails are short before you try to touch the whites of your eyes... I have a permanent red spot/line on the white of one of my eyeballs because I didn't cut my nails before trying to remove a contact...)
posted by aielen at 6:57 PM on April 12, 2009

My tactic for inaccessible contact lenses has always been to fill a decent sized sink, immerse my face in it and blink and use fingers to get my eyelids out of the way. Sometimes it'll just float out, and even when it doesn't the extra hydration seems to make the lens more pliable, less irritating and easier to remove using conventional methods.
posted by BishopsLoveScifi at 10:57 PM on April 12, 2009

Once in high school one got stuck in the top of my eye, and I didn't know how to get it out, so I just left it there (nobody believed I could get it stuck, so no advice was offered). It never came out, so I'm assuming my body somehow disposed of it.

I'm all for glasses.
posted by aniola at 11:13 PM on April 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've had good luck with pulling my eyelid away from my eyeball. This and a little prodding through the lid and always gets it to the side corner.
posted by jefftang at 7:43 AM on April 13, 2009

Thanks for the answers. Went to the hospital and had the eye looked at. They shone a light at it, squirted an orange dye into it, and rolled up the eyelid with a cotton swab. No dice, no lens found. Occasionally it still feels as if there is something inside the eye, but since the doctor was pretty thorough, I think it's just my mind playing tricks on me.
posted by nihraguk at 8:08 AM on April 19, 2009

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