Fear of inserting contact lenses.
June 18, 2005 4:04 AM   Subscribe

I soon need to get new glasses, but have been tinkering with the thought of getting contacts. Problem being that I have a fear of inserting them. I can't stick it in my eye without flinching too bad to get it in. Any tips on overcoming my fears?
posted by linus to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (27 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
*comes home from work, takes out contacts*
If this means that you've never tried contacts and just can't bear the thought of sticking them in your eyes, or if this means that you tried them at the contact lens place and gave up right away, then you may be needlessly missing out on something good. linus, we ALL feel strange at first trying to insert contacts. Everyone. But if you properly care for the contacts, they will soon slip into position and be smooth as silk for the rest of the day, and the procedure gets trivially easy in a matter of a few days. My vision is WAY better with contacts than with glasses. WAY better.
posted by planetkyoto at 4:40 AM on June 18, 2005

Clean and dry your hands. Hold open your eye wide with the fingers on one hand after getting the lens just right on the end of your inserting finger. Use a decent mirror. I find it easiest when I look down just slightly as I watch the lens approach. Train yourself not to blink as the lens is put on the eye - that's where I usually go awry. But after doing it irregularly for 5 years with daily disposables I still find it really easy to fluff up unless I am very finicky and particular about the way I do it each time. I certainly don't value them to the same extent as planetkyoto but once they are in they are usually fine for 8 hours, but I almost always take my glasses with me anyway, just in case. I like them particularly for night events so as to reduce the light refraction plus I can wear decent sunglasses in summer.
posted by peacay at 5:07 AM on June 18, 2005

I don't have any specific tips, but I got contacts in junior high (i'm 26 now) and I was one of those people who always said that I never wanted to stick anything in my eye. Eventually though, it became clear that the athletic activities I was in would be made much easier without pushing up glasses all the time.

I was definitely nervous the first time the optometrist had me try contacts, but it ended up being much less of an ordeal than I thought. Now I have NO problems at all with them. So, like I said, no tips, but I was just like you and overcame my fears. It can be done! (I just need to convince my husband of this now...)
posted by stefnet at 5:14 AM on June 18, 2005

Look up, insert from below, with lens inserted look down to position lens over pupil. Mostly, you just get over the flinch with time, and typically that time is just a few days.
posted by caddis at 5:14 AM on June 18, 2005

I had contacts for a little while. They did feel funny at first but I got used to them. One day I was driving and a piece of dust/dirt flew into my eye. It was extremely painful and I was unable to see through that eye. I ended up pulling the car over and taking my lenses out. I then had to drive home with blurry vision. I know, I know, I should have had my glasses with me...but doesn't that defeat the purpose of the lenses?

Whatever, I went back to glasses because I didn't want to be blinded in another situation where vision is necessary. Plus, I thought it was pretty ridiculous that every time some dust flew into my eye it would be painful. They seem like much more trouble than they're worth -- cleaning them, changing them, getting new ones, etc. And you still have to have glasses for when you're not wearing them!! It's not worth the trouble.
posted by ebeeb at 5:16 AM on June 18, 2005

Don't give up. It can be extremely discouraging and a little icky, but, for most people, contacts are absolutely worth the week or so of hassle of learning to use them. I put mine in the minute I wake up and take them out right before bed.

I really didn't have much trouble putting them in, it was taking them out that got me. But again, don't give up- it will come with time.
posted by wallaby at 6:04 AM on June 18, 2005

what about the 30 day contacts? I was thinking this would be an easier solution, as it would mean putting them in less frequently, but if what most of you are saying, it would be a big ordeal because I'd never get used to it? anybody had experience with these?
posted by linus at 6:10 AM on June 18, 2005

And how do you actually remove the things? That's what seems weirdest in my mind.
posted by linus at 6:11 AM on June 18, 2005 [1 favorite]

I use Focus Night and Day at the moment which allows more oxygen into the eye than any other contacts. It's meant to be worn without taking it out for 30 days, but my eye doctor suggested I take them out at night anyway.

I've been wearing contacts for 12 years. I've never liked the putting in and taking out aspect of it, so I'd usually just wear the contacts for a week or two and take them out overnight once. My eyes were healthy up until this year when I was informed I have blood vessels growing into my cornea, whatever that means. So the doc prescribed the night and day and told me to wear my glasses more often.

As far as removal goes, I never got the hang of that. I usually peel the contact away by getting the edge of it under my thumb nail and popping it out. Not painful or anything, but I'm always afraid I'll scratch my eye or tear the lense. My fingernails (which aren't VERY long, but do extend past my fingertips) have always prevented me from being able to squeeze the contact out with the tips. I have no idea how people with inch long nails go about taking out their contacts.

If you do get the 30 day contacts (which are healthier for you anyway since they let more oxygen in) I'd recommend taking them out every night and putting them back in come morning until you get used to the taking out - putting in.

Also, I don't know if anyone's mentioned this, but they really shouldn't let you leave with a prescription for contacts until you're comfortable removing and inserting them. When I got contacts (granted I was 14, but I've been told other people went through this as well) I spent probably an hour and a half practicing inserting and removing. When I came home and wanted to get the contacts out again, I struggled for probably two or three hours and my mom told me if I couldn't get them out before I went to sleep, the contacts would fuse to my eye and they'd have to be surgically removed (she had a flair for the dramatic). Eventually, I figured out a better way to do it (my fingernail method) but I still and always have struggled with taking them out.
posted by lynda at 6:37 AM on June 18, 2005

I wore hard, then gas-permeable (GP), lenses for years, never had a problem with them until the last year or so of my GPs (see below). After a week or so, the message gets to the brain that what you're putting in the eye isn't harmful and the blink reflex relaxes.

I abused my GP lenses for years, and ended up wearing them 18 hours a day, with the result that I can't wear GP lenses any more. Now I have daily disposables. I can't see quite as sharply with them as with the GPs, but they are fine. I have to re-hydrate them with comfort drops a couple of times a day when I am in the office (air-conditioned building) or when, like today, the weather's very warm, but all-in-all I am happy with them.

As for getting them out, I kind of pinch them out. If my eyes are tired/dry I wet them first with comfort drops.

One thing I really really wish I'd done 20 years ago, though, was to use a good eye cream because pulling the skin about round my eyes twice a day for umpteen years has left me with a few lines.

And yes, what lynda said, any responsible optometrist will not let you loose until you are comfortable with inserting and removing them.

The 30-day ones (if by that you mean the ones you leave in for 30 days straight), so my ophthalmologist tells me, are not highly recommended because of the risk of infection.
posted by essexjan at 6:57 AM on June 18, 2005

My eyes were healthy up until this year when I was informed I have blood vessels growing into my cornea, whatever that means.

It's also known as neovascularization. I have a little and when the doc told me I was scared off of wearing contacts for nine years. Started again a few months ago, wearing the Focus Night and day lenses and taking them out every night. Quite like it.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:03 AM on June 18, 2005

My problem was with taking them out. I wore GPs for so many years, and they are so easy to take out - just pull on the corner of your eye. But I had to stop wearing them because of cornea and dryness problems, so I thought I would try soft lenses. I had to use the astigmatism kind, which apparently are more "sticky". I'd never had to actually touch my eyeball to take contacts, and in the optometrist's office I got so freaked out/grossed out by doing it (I had to try like 12 times and they still wouldn't come out) that I said "forget it, I'm staying with glasses."
posted by matildaben at 7:06 AM on June 18, 2005

More than just looking down, I find that focusing my vision on something up/down and to the side works well for overcoming the blink reflex.

Re: removal: I too fear scratching my eye and tearing the lens, so I use the following removal method: put thumb at edge of lens near outer corner of the eye. Use a clean, dry finger to gently swipe the lens. It should adhere gently to the finger (the thumb keeps the lens from sliding into the corner of your eye). Presto!
posted by amber_dale at 7:07 AM on June 18, 2005

On the subject of choosing specific contacts, I love my Ciba Vision Night & Day's. They are made to be slept in. After a drop in each eye after waking I never experience dryness until the month is up. The closest thing to the surgery with out the surgery.

lynda, I was told by my doctor not to take them out too often as they are thinner than traditional lens and less durable to being handled frequently.
posted by geekyguy at 7:09 AM on June 18, 2005

Linus: I found it really, really hard to get contacts in the first few times, my flinch response was so overwhelming. It was a half-hour ordeal each morning the first week. Ten minutes the second. By the third week it was something I did half-asleep on my way to make the coffee--no big deal at all. There was no method I used in particular, other than uttering "Don't be a wuss" to myself. If you think you want contacts go for it, you will get used to it pretty quickly.
posted by LarryC at 7:24 AM on June 18, 2005

Same problem. Actually saw a shrink. Here's what he said to do, and it worked:
1. Wash your hands
2. Lay in bed and relax
3. Touch as close to your eye as you can without getting tense.
4. Touch a bit closer.
5. Play with getting close, but not tense.
6. Repeat for days (or more, or less) until you can touch the corner of your eye.
7. Eventually touch the center.

After a week for me I was ready to drop those contacts in. No problem.

I was rather amazed it was so easy to overcome what had been a real fear.
posted by cccorlew at 8:07 AM on June 18, 2005

Just accept that you'll be nervous about doing; get your optician to properly teach you how to take them in/out; and then just do it every day. Sure, it might take you 45 minutes to do it at first, but in while it will you will get over the fear, your body will learn that the contact isn't scary and you'll stop a lot of the involuntary flinching, and eventually you'll be able to do it in seconds.

In sum: Persevere.
posted by Kololo at 9:25 AM on June 18, 2005

I've been wearing contacts for 12 years, and I love them. I'm two years behind in filling a prescription for glasses, in fact--I just keep an extra set of my two-week disposables with me in case there's a problem. I even take them camping, along with some Purell and fresh water to clean my hands.

I agree with everyone that the flinch is weird for a week or two at first, but it really does become second nature after a short while. It helps to make sure the contact is well-saturated with solution before you put it in--if it's dry, it'll feel scratchy and not mold to your eye so well. Drops help when you're taking them out. I pinch mine with the pads of my thumb and pointer finger, which breaks the seal, and then pull a little so it comes right out. If you're doing it right, you aren't touching your eye at all. It takes me about five seconds to do the in and out every day, and I wear them from morning until bedtime (sometimes 18 hours) without trouble.
posted by hamster at 9:25 AM on June 18, 2005

You get over the ick factor and flinchiness by doing it, again and again and again.

I wear rigid gas-permeables and have done for ~20 years. It's normal with RGP lenses for there to be an initial period of adaptation (like a week or so), and you might find that even after that you continue to be kinda squinty for a month or so. You probably won't notice after the first week, but other people might. I would try whatever your eyedoc suggests for you; if (s)he's suggesting RGP's presumably there's a reason (ask him/her!). But you should know that if you're going into RGP's the process takes longer.

My rigid gas-permeable routines differ from those described by the other folks here. I am right-handed.

(2) Put lens on right pointy-finger, cup up, add a drop or two of saline. You can use tap water, but my tap water isn't very nice so saline is more comfortable.
(3) Approach the mirror. My vision is around 20/600, so for me this means get very close.
(4) Left hand middle finger holds upper eyelid in place, slightly stretched. Right hand middle finger holds lower eyelid in place, slightly stretched. Then I rotate my head down so that my eyeball meets my eager pointy-finger, looking right at the finger. As soon as the blob of saline touches the eyeball, that gloms the contact onto it.

Getting them out, I apply *very* slight downward pressure on my upper eyelid and blink. You have to blink in a sort of weird way that I can't describe but that's easy to get the hang of.

They seem like much more trouble than they're worth

The big one: Peripheral vision rocks.

Big weight on your nose, even with high-index plastic, is teh suck.
Having your eyes look like little pinpricks because your prescription is so strong is teh suck.
Being able to grab any old pair of sunglasses rocks.
Having your glasses catch every drop of airborne grease within 40 miles and eternally smearing up sucks.
Having weird reflections clutter your vision sucks.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:34 AM on June 18, 2005

If you're concerned that you'll sink money into contact lenses that you'll have a problem putting in your eye, any decent optometrist will provide you with trial lenses. In fact, he/she will probably have you try out many different types of lenses for free to figure out the best fit for your eyes.
posted by randomstriker at 10:52 AM on June 18, 2005

Taking out: Place tip of forefinger on contact lens, slide to one side while looking towards the other side, so lens slides off to one side of the eyeball. Use thumb pad (not the nail!) to "pinch" the lens up off the eye. Presto!
posted by Aquaman at 11:56 AM on June 18, 2005

Kololo's method sounds like it would work great. The thing I would add is, if you're going to practice touching your eye, practice doing it with a wet contact lens on your finger. Two reasons: There is sort of a trick to keeping the contact lens from falling off, and you might as well get practice in that at the same time. The other reason is that while touching your eye with a contact lens doesn't hurt at all, touching it with a dry finger does, and you shouldn't get the wrong idea about what it feels like.

Linus, I think everybody has this problem at first. In my optometrist's office it took me an hour to put my contacts in. I'd say it takes about a week to get over the blinking reflex, but don't chicken out!

Advice: I use three fingers to put a contact lens in. The lens goes on the index finger (left eye, right hand), and the index finger and thumb of the other hand (left eye, left hand) hold the skin above the eye open as wide as possible. Opening your eyes wide is key. To this day, the only problems I ever have putting lenses in is when I get lazy and don't open my eyes as wide as possible.

Good luck, it's totally worth it.
posted by Hildago at 12:25 PM on June 18, 2005

Clean and dry your hands.

I would suggest you skip drying your hands, because doing so just introduces lint or grime onto your fingers. Just flick as much water off as you can before you proceed.
posted by randomstriker at 1:47 PM on June 18, 2005

I've worn contacts since I was 12 (I'm 26 now), and I've never had a problem getting them in after the first couple times. I know this is no help, BUT...I've noticed that I actually like the way it feels when I put contacts in my eyes, because it feels like a soothing eyedrop to me. Maybe you can start by putting eyedroips in your eyes and get used to that, and then move on to contacts? It is strange at first, but after awhile, you'll be able to do it without thinking.

I would suggest you skip drying your hands

I agree with this for the lint suggestion, but if your hands are too wet and you're wearing soft contacts, they might stick to your finger or turn inside out on your fingertips. No big thing, but if this happens to you a lot, it just means your fingers are too wet.
posted by AlisonM at 2:29 PM on June 18, 2005

I would suggest you skip drying your hands, because doing so just introduces lint or grime onto your fingers. Just flick as much water off as you can before you proceed.

Dry the finger that you're going to use to put the contact in by rubbing it on the back of your hand. This avoids towel lint, which you certainly don't want in your eye. You do want that finger dry to put it in though, because contacts adhere to whatever is wettest -- in this case, your eye. The reverse is true for taking them out. When removing them, get your fingers wet. This will make it hurt less when you touch your eye, and will help the contact to stick to your finger.

The one thing that helped me get over the squick factor (other than practice, and I was downright terrified), was to touch my eye when it was closed and realise that eyes are quite sturdy and aren't going to burst or anything gross like that if I touch them.

I have no idea how people with inch long nails go about taking out their contacts.

Simple, they use the side of their finger, not the pad. I'm not sure how they type, though I'm sure their thumb nail doesn't hit the spacebar, since they're hitting it with the side of their thumb, not the pad. Same idea. I use my thumb and middle finger, using the sides of both.
posted by heatherann at 12:39 PM on June 19, 2005

One of my eyes is way more sensitive than the other. I'm surprised at the above posters, who place the lens directly on the cornea. Here then is the obsessive-compulsive doctor's guide to lens insertion:

1) Wash hands with an unmoisturized, non-scented soap (I use Neutrogena fragrance-free glycerin soap.) The advice "dry with a lint-free cloth" is difficult unless you have access to surgical towels, so I generally don't dry them. Rinse all the soap off. Do not have had shaving cream, habanero peppers or fluoride toothpaste on the hands in the last 10 minutes.

2) Put the lens in hand. Rinse off the disinfectant fluid with sterile saline that has as few preservatives as possible (I use the Bausch and Lomb that has potassium chloride in it too.) The "ok to introduce into eye" lens surfactant/disinfectant about halves the time I can comfortably keep the lens in, so I do recommend rinsing it off if you have sensitive eyes.

3) Position the lens on the pad of the dominant hand's index fingertip. If you can see the little line that indicates 'down', try to position it so it'll be at the bottom of your eye when you put it in. If not, you will have to blink half a dozen times to rotate the lens. Make sure the inner surface of the lens is free of lint.

4) Drip a little saline into the bowl of the lens.

5) Approach the mirror with your eye and your lens. When you're learning to do this, a mirror positioned horizontal on your countertop is easier. Eventually you'll be able to do it with the regular vertical mirror.

6) Get ready to pop the lens onto the center of your pupil.

7) Right before the lens touches, look up. WAY up, so that your iris disappears under your top eyelid. Put the lens, by feel now, on the white of your eye, well south of the clear corneal area. Keep your finger lightly on the lens and partially relax your eye; the lens will slide onto the bottom half of the cornea as it rotates down, making a good suction seal in the process.

8) Remove finger and blink, centering the lens.

This way you're never actually applying pressure to the delicate center of the corneal region with your finger. I strongly recommend it.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:49 PM on June 19, 2005

To remove them, I drag the lens down off my cornea with a dry, clean finger, until it is well south of the cornea, on the white sclera again. Then, using thumb and forefinger, I pinch the lens material until it 'bunches up'. This breaks the suction and gives me something to grab onto to lift the lens out of my eye.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:51 PM on June 19, 2005

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