Momma always said not to stick things in your eyes.
December 9, 2011 7:54 PM   Subscribe

I want to try out contact lenses again.

I've been wearing glasses since I was in first grade and I'm now a grad student. About 2 years ago, I decided to try out contacts, because I got tired of wearing glasses. I have quite poor vision, so I wear my glasses from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed. I got tired of the way I looked with glasses and wanted to try contacts.

So, I went to the dr. and got some contacts. They told me to put them on at the store and that's where the trouble started. It took me ages to put them on. Literally more than an hour. It was quite embarrassing and I could tell the staff was getting fed up with me for taking so long. :(

Even with practice, I couldn't get the hang of it. I'm not someone with a lot of time to spare when getting ready for school in the morning, so eventually I gave up and just settled for glasses.

But lately I've been thinking about trying contacts again. I'd like a bit of a makeover, I guess. It's not that I think glasses are "ugly" -- I quite like my current frames. It's just that I'm tired of my eyes hiding behind them.

The biggest reason why I couldn't get the lenses in the first time is because my "blink reflex" was too strong or something. But since then, I think it's calmed down, mostly because I wear eye makeup nowadays (I didn't before) and am used to waving mascara wands and eye pencils and eyeshadow brushes around my eyes. So I was wondering, if contacts would work this time.

What are some of the ways you learned to put on contacts easily? What did I miss the first time?

I'm worried about sinking money into contacts, only to have them sit unused like my previous set. (I still have the unopened boxes.) Any advice is much appreciated. I'd like to return to school in January looking much cuter!

p.s. like I said, I still have the old boxes of contacts, completely unopened. There's a date on the box that says "2012/04"... is that the expiration date? Would it be okay to practice with them? My eye prescription hasn't changed since then.
posted by joyeuxamelie to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I've been a contact lens wearer since the mid 80's. I have very sensitive eyes and simply can not tolerate some brands of lenses. With that said know that different brands can make an enormous difference in comfort. If you couldn't not adjust to the brand that you have now you're probably still going to have an unsatisfactory experience when you try them on again.

A protip - the "daily use" lenses , the kinds that you throw away after a day of use, are thinner than other kinds of lenses and , in my case at least, were far more comfortable to wear. I was using Accuvue dailies but what works for me isn't what may work well for you. Be prepared to experiment with several brands of demo lens singles before settling on one that works .

If the lenses are uncomfortable to begin with than you probably won't find a trick that works for you to get them on and off easily. After you find a comfortable pair it shouldn't take you more than a week or two to get the knack of getting them on and off in just a few seconds per lens.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 8:04 PM on December 9, 2011

I've been away from contacts for a while due to dry eyes from staring close to computer code. I remember finding a rhythm and slightly off angle, not directly but aiming just in a bit towards then nose was easier to get them in. Even if the contact isn't centered at first a bit of serious blinking will center it. Some times it helped to find a spot to brace the elbow, and torso to reduce the possible movements.
posted by sammyo at 8:05 PM on December 9, 2011

Don't feel bad about having a hard time putting on contacts! At the eye doctor, the dr. put in my contacts for me because it was my first time, it took her quite a while to put them on because I kept blinking. When I was taking them off by myself for the first time it took me over half an hour to take them off!

It was even worse when I was putting them on for the first time by myself, it took close to an hour to put on both contacts. What I found helpful was getting a small mirror and using it to help to see where the contacts should go, by using my peripheral vision and not staring directly at my finger/contact. Eventually I think a little under a month, I got the hang of it and I could do it in less a minute for both.

What I found helpful was to not put too much contact solution when first putting them on, it makes it harder for the contact get off of your fingers and on your eye. I also only practiced using only one hand for putting on contacts since I had a hard time switching hands for each eye.

Also I would assume it would also be fine to use your old box of unused contacts, just soak them in a bit of contact solution. I find them to be a bit stingy if I don't do that before I put them on.

Sorry for the wall of text :[
posted by QueenHawkeye at 8:07 PM on December 9, 2011

Thank you ~

Oh and I forgot to mention, the lenses the store gave me are O2 Optix brand from Ciba Vision/Novartis.
posted by joyeuxamelie at 8:09 PM on December 9, 2011

And they are disposable, but not daily. I think weekly?
posted by joyeuxamelie at 8:09 PM on December 9, 2011

The first time I put on contacts, it took me about an hour too. And, yeah, the 'blink reflex' was my biggest problem - I couldn't get the lens anywhere near my eye without my eyelid trying to GET IT OUT NOW.

There isn't really a secret, just hold your eyelids open with one hand and pop it in with the other. I stare straight at the mirror and use the my left hand (I'm right-handed) to pull my upper eyelid up, my right ring finger to pull my lower eyelid down, and pop the contact in with my right index finger. Make sure the contact isn't too wet, because that makes it adhere But there are many ways to do it, and with some experimentation you can find a method that works.

It's worth trying again. Your old lenses should still be good (2012/04 almost certainly is the use-by date, I can't think of anything else it might mean) so give it a shot, and if it works, great! Enjoy your new glasses-less existence.

(On preview: yeah, it could also be the lenses. I lucked out and got a great fit with my brand/prescription the first time around. If they're actively uncomfortable, see if you can get another kind.)
posted by Xany at 8:09 PM on December 9, 2011

Place the lens on the tip of your index finger. Add a drop of fluid to the lens. Use one hand to pull your eyelid up from above, with your arm comically over your head. Bring the lens close to your eye, and use your middle and ring fingers to pull your lower eyelid/cheek down. With both lids held firmly, Alex-style, apply the lens directly to the centre of your eye.

Blink gently. Make sure it hasn't jumped out. Check to see if the world is suddenly in focus. Repeat with the other eye.

Yes, definitely use the old boxes of contacts, unless the packages have leaked somehow and the lenses are desiccated.

I have the same problems you do. PM me if you want the excruciatingly long walkthroughs of my technique.

Good luck!
posted by tapesonthefloor at 8:10 PM on December 9, 2011

Oh man, my first trip to the eye doctor for contact lenses (in about 3rd or 4th grade) was TERRIBLE -- I thought they were going to have to pull a Clockwork Orange eye clamp thing on me. I blinked them out every time -- the eye doctor was SO fed up with me. Now, decades later, I can't not wear contacts.

So, it definitely takes practice -- a few pro tips:

- If there are dry spots or any debris on the lens, your eye will immediately want to blink it out. Same thing if it is backwards. So, make sure the lens is moist. Then, spray some solution on the finger you are going to use to put it in as well. Then, pick up the lens with that finger. If you need to flip it or move it, make sure you spray those fingers with solution. Basically, you want your fingers moist so you aren't drying out the lens or getting dust on it moving it around your fingers.

- If that took you a while, put some solution into the lens as well. You want it wet.

- Balance the lens you are putting in on the tip of your finger -- the more you can have it right at the bottom of the curve, the less surface that is touching your finger, the easier it will be.

- Now, superstars can go one hand no mirror. Even decades later, I still use both hands and a mirror. In front of the mirror, use one hand to pull your lower lid down and look up (or use two fingers to spread both lids -- like, your middle finger pulls the bottom lid down and your ring finger pushes the top lid up).

- Then, look up and put in the lens, but put it in over the white of your eye below the pupil so you aren't looking right at it. It will float into the right spot. You are holding your lower lid out of the weigh, so even if you blink a bit with the top lid, it shouldn't get in the way.

- If (when) you blink it out, wash it off with a spray of solution and start over.


Also, some contact lenses are easier to use than others. My eye doctor just had me try some high oxygen permeability lens, and they are a total nightmare. They are much thinner than what I am used to and totally clear and they are terrible. I preferred the B&L lenses with a bit of blue in them so you could actually see them in the solution. So, maybe you had a tough pair.

Good luck -- and make sure when you store them, that you completely cover them with solution and that they aren't stuck to the case. That will keep them wet.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 8:14 PM on December 9, 2011

When I learned to wear contacts, I used this trick - place a mirror on the counter (a hand mirror or something else you can lay flat) and bend over it. Look down at the mirror while putting in the lens. I don't know why this helped me, but it did - I tried for almost an hour before they set the mirror on the counter, then it was no problem.

Nthing that you can use your old contacts if they're still sealed tight - just make sure to rinse them off with some fresh solution before popping them in.
posted by youngergirl44 at 8:16 PM on December 9, 2011

I've worn extended wear contacts for more than 25 years, and while it did take some practice for me to be able to just pop them in, for the life of me I STILL can't put them in at the doctor's office. There's no sink, the mirror is at a weird height, their tissues are linty, I'm wearing mascara, and I feel the pressure to hurry. Hang in there!
posted by Occula at 8:16 PM on December 9, 2011

This probably isn't recommended but I practiced putting mine in and taking them out after a taking quarter of a valium I had left over from dental work. I mostly had issues taking them out so that worked out quite well to do at night. Three or four days of that and I could take them out like a champ. Valium apparently works as well on my blink reflex as it does on my bite-the-dentist reflex.

In the mornings I more or less threw them into my eyes after filling them with eyedrops.
posted by fshgrl at 8:19 PM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

This was after tears and crying, literally crying! at home! because i couldn't get them out.
posted by fshgrl at 8:19 PM on December 9, 2011

First time I got contacts it took me 30 minutes to get them in with a assistant trying to give me pointers. I have been doing it a year now and the tip above by This_will_be_good "Then, look up and put in the lens, but put it in over the white of your eye below the pupil so you aren't looking right at it. It will float into the right spot. You are holding your lower lid out of the weigh, so even if you blink a bit with the top lid, it shouldn't get in the way" hits the nail on the head. It took alot of practice but now I don't dread putting my contacts in (I never had trouble getting them out, just push to the corner of your eye with clean finger and gentle pinch out, if it won't move over just moisten with one eye drop and it will loosen).
posted by sandyp at 8:26 PM on December 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

It took me a lot of practice. I actually left the dr. office without having put them in myself. My I took one Saturday and just practiced. It took me about an hour and a half to get the first one in and nearly twice that amount of time to get the second one in. Having one in made my vision oddly lop sided and made the second one tougher than the first.

After I got the second on in I gave myself a small break, took those suckers out and did it again.

I literally spent all day putting in and taking out my contacts. By the end of the day it took me about five minutes to get the first one in and ten to get the second in. I got really good at taking them out though.

After a few weeks of putting them in every morning it got easier. What used to take 15 minutes now takes seconds.

My technique is like this:

1. Wash hands. Do not dry them (to avoid fuzz.)
2. Take right contact out of the case and place it in my left palm.
3. Squirt contact with solution and rub in a circular motion for a few seconds to make sure it's clean.
4. Squirt with more solution to rinse.
5. Place the contact on the very tip of my right index finger and check to make sure the contact is right side out. It's key that it's on the very tip. The contact wants to stick to the area with the most surface contact. It's important that that be my eye, not my finger.
6. Add a few drops of solution to the inside of the contact.
Place the heel of my left palm on my forehead and use my left middle finger to hold my upper eyelashes down while I open my eye as wide as possible.
7. While looking straight into the mirror I place the contact on the white of my eye nearer the outside edge. If there isn't enough room for the whole contact I'll turn my head so that my iris is more toward the inside corner.
8. I pull my finger back slowly. If the contact doesn't stick I start over at step #5. If the contact sticks then I'll slowly turn my head so that my iris slides under the contact. It's very important not to blink at this point, so I'm still holding my eyelashes with my left hand. Once the contact is in the right spot I'll do a few circles looking around the room to make sure it's set right, then I'll blink.
9. If it's in then I'm good and I can start over at #1 with the left eye. If I blink and it's not in right it'll usually pop out and sit on my lower lash, then I start over at #5.

I usually have to blow my nose after I get my contacts in. YMMV. I can also say that it seems a lot easier if my eyes are moist but my eyelashes are dry. I'll add a few rewetting drops, then dry off my lashes with a tissue before I get started.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:29 PM on December 9, 2011

When I first got contacts, I sat at my kitchen table in front of a mirror for hours trying to get them in and out myself. Now I pop them in and out without even looking in a mirror and wear them all day, every day. The secret? Don't place it directly over your pupil! I look towards my nose and put the contact on the white part of my eye. When I let go and move my eye to look forward, the contact is pushed into the right position. I blink and it's set. No blinking and pulling away from the huge hand COMING STRAIGHT AT YOU.

If you need more details, I use my right thumb and forefinger to hold my right eye open and vice versa. Then I put the contact on my other forefinger (correct direction - not inside out, wet contact/dry finger, resting lightly on the very tip of my finger).
posted by Nickel at 8:29 PM on December 9, 2011

There was a pretty recent question with many many answers about how to take out contacts. It is something that many people struggle with. In your case it sounds like you have trouble with touching your eye. That is common, it is not natural to have things touching your eye, but after a while you'll be able to do it without even thinking about it. I would practice touching your eye with your fingertips at times without putting in or taking out contacts - it takes the the stress off because you're not panicking that OMG I'm never going to get this foreign object out of my eye!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:30 PM on December 9, 2011

Just FYI, I agree with this advice...

Place the lens on the tip of your index finger. Add a drop of fluid to the lens. Use one hand to pull your eyelid up from above, with your arm comically over your head. Bring the lens close to your eye, and use your middle and ring fingers to pull your lower eyelid/cheek down. With both lids held firmly, Alex-style, apply the lens directly to the centre of your eye. Blink gently.

...except the "directly to the centre of your eye" part. I cannot do that and have never been able to do that. Despite this, I have been successfully wearing contacts for like 25 years. I do as instructed but I actually look away, at my own nose. Touch the contact to the eyeball, blink, and 99 out of 100 times, it rolls right into place.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:23 PM on December 9, 2011

I've been wearing contacts for close to 15 years, and I think I've mostly had better experiences with them at first because I had been wearing glasses since preschool and was teased for most of my life for it. I think it took me MAYBE 10 minutes the first time, if that. The trick for me, which has never ever changed, is to put the lens on my dominant hand pointer finger (right) and use my non-dominant (left) hand to keep my eye lids apart, with the pointer on the upper lid and thumb on the lower lid. At first I used a mirror, but now I don't have to. And I ALWAYS put it right on my pupil because A) it's easier to tell that it's in correctly, and B) I can see it going in and therefore am less dependant on the mirror. Use lots of solution at first. It's okay of you tear up a bunch; that's normal. And really work on making sure you can visually tell the difference between the right side and the wrong side of the contact. The thinner they are, the harder it is to tell, I feel like. And really, practice makes perfect. You'll get it!
posted by two lights above the sea at 9:28 PM on December 9, 2011

I've been wearing contacts for many years, and when I first started, I would do it at a table with a mirror laying flat on the table. It did take a while at first, but you'll be one-handing it with no mirror in no time. And it's totally worth it; keep practicing!
posted by mogget at 9:31 PM on December 9, 2011

I first got contacts when I was about 12 and just could. not. put. them. in. Seriously, it took me over an hour at the eye doctor's the first time and then at least 45 minutes every day after that. I have an incredibly strong blink reflex, and I just couldn't handle putting something in my eye. Finally after about 2 more years of wearing glasses, I was sick of it. So I washed my hands, sat in front of a mirror, and made myself touch my eyeball to get over the psychological barrier. After about a week or two of that, it really wasn't a big deal to put my contacts in anymore.

Actually, I still have a really strong blink reflex. I was at an eye doctor a couple of years ago and they were trying to do a glaucoma test by putting a device against my eyeball. I just couldn't handle something coming straight at my eyeball. The assistant actually got kind of snippy with me and said something snarky about how she couldn't believe I put contacts in every day if I couldn't handle that. But whatever.
posted by McPuppington the Third at 11:04 PM on December 9, 2011

I've been wearing glasses since 3rd grade and contacts since 8th grade-- now 23. I was on/off with contacts for many years and each time I went back to wearing contacts especially after going 6+ months without, it was very hard to get used to them.

Tips for putting lenses in are to use a mirror where you can get very close, one of the double sided magnifying ones work well. Also, keeping both eyes open while you insert the lens helps. It minimizes the blinking reflex.

Sometimes looking up will help. I've used a method where I pull my eye lid using both hands and have the contact lens on my index finger from just being able to pull on my lower lid and placing the lens in with my index finger again. It all depends on what you're comfortable with. Over time you'll get used to it it just takes a bit of getting used to and some practice with touching your eye. My friends most of the time are amazed how I can put in/take out contacts without a mirror.

If the lens feels uncomfortable at first don't worry too much. It's normal and soon you will notice that your eyes might get tired more easily and that's just because your eye needs to develop a callus on the area your lens sits.

I tried even switching brands over this past summer, but I found them very irritable (they were weekly's and I was used to using the daily type). Try to find a brand you are comfortable with first and then you can test out the different styles -- weekly, daily, monthly, etc.

I use Focus Dailies and honestly, I would never go back to any other brand I've used in the past. Of course they are more expensive, but you have the benefit of putting a fresh contact lens on your eye everyday. In the long run you are saving on buying bottles of solution, especially if you need to use the peroxide based solutions and special eye case cleaner, which cleans the lens to a higher degree. Also, they are super easy to travel around with. I leave a few extras in my car, purse, and even when I was at the office just in case I'm not happy with the lens I have in for the day or I accidentally tear the lens.
posted by melizabeth at 12:11 AM on December 10, 2011

I really feel for you! I was an early glasses wearer and lobbied my parents HARD for contacts for years. My parents finally gave in when I was 14 and I was overjoyed. But alas, my experience at the eye doctor's with my brand new contacts was pretty much the same as yours, except the eye doc finally did manage to get them in. When it came time to take them out that evening, it was torture. So...for about a week I avoided putting them in because it had been so exhausting and scary that first time. You can guess how thrilled my parents were about that, since we didn't have much money and contacts were hideously expensive back then (no disposables).

But eventually I did manage to put them in, thanks to practice and determination (as much on my mother's part as mine). I wore contacts for 20 years before I went back to glasses out of sheer laziness. This is what worked for me:

-At first, the mirror-on-the-counter trick really helped, though I quickly became good at taking them out and putting them in without a mirror at all.
-Even though I was an experienced contact lens wearer by the time I tried them, I found the thinnest, most hydrophilic lenses were hell to put in and take out.
-The brand of disposables I was happiest with and stuck with for the longest were Preference Frequent Wear (FW) by CooperVision (you pitch them every 3 months). They are actually quite a bit thicker than a lot of other lenses, but that made them easier for me to put in, and I found them perfectly comfortable.
-I remember having lenses with light blue tint at one point (don't remember if the Preference ones had this) and I quite liked it, because they were far easier to see.

Good luck! If I did it, you'll be able to do it too. Despite having worn contacts for years, I never did get over my aversion to anyone's fingers near my eyes, and I never stopped flinching at the glaucoma puff test either. I've had the same eye doctor for the last 15 years, and I don't think I can go to another one now because he's probably the only one who's patient enough to put up with me.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:12 AM on December 10, 2011

I had a hell of a time getting my contacts in the first time I tried - I actually overran the allotted appointment length at the store and had to come back the next day! What worked for me, in the end, was to just do nothing of any kind involving the coloured part of my eye. I put them in while looking to one side, and just let the lens slide naturally over once it's on the eye surface. To take them out, I gently pull the lens over to the outside corner of the eye, and pinch it there rather than doing it in the centre.

I've been wearing them for about 18 months now and haven't had a single problem, although I do find brand new lenses can be more of a hassle to remove for the first day or two, until they soften from either being in the eye or soaking in solution overnight.
posted by emmtee at 3:02 AM on December 10, 2011

Another very recent question on the same thing
posted by katers890 at 5:33 AM on December 10, 2011

Someone might have already mentioned this, but something that really helped me was practicing just touching my eye. Per my dr., wash your hands well and hold your eye as though putting the contact in, but just touch the white briefly. Made it a lot easier for me to not go crazy with the blinking later on!
posted by brilliantine at 5:55 AM on December 10, 2011

Something I didn't see in a quick scan of answers: Put the contacts onto the WHITE of your eye. I too had a terrible time learning to put in/take out contacts. I could not stand to put the contact directly on my eye. The whole time I wore soft contacts, I put them on by doing the arm-over-the-head eyelid hold and putting the contact in at the outer corner of my eye and then sliding it into place. Made a huge difference for me once I figured that out. Same goes for taking them out- much easier to slide them off to the side and then do the pinch-and-remove maneuver.

(I now wear hard contacts and happily stick them right to the center of my eyeball without a mirror. So it is something that also improves with practice.)
posted by catatethebird at 6:15 AM on December 10, 2011

I feel for you - took me quite a while (probably at least a few months) to get used to putting contacts in. Now I've been wearing them for 15 years and it's pretty much second nature.

I use basically much the same method as TooFewShoes, but with a few small differences. I found the best method for me seems to be to hold the upper eyelid with my left index finger, lower eyelid with right middle finger, then place the lens with the tip of my right index finger. Seems to keep my hands more steady, and keeps the lens centered on my eye.

I did have some issues off and on with comfort the first few years but changing brands seemed to help. Currently wearing Biofinity soft lenses and they seem to work quite well.
posted by photo guy at 10:19 AM on December 10, 2011

I went back to contacts 2 years ago after a more than 20 year break (had hard contacts in high school and never really got used to them). Getting them in and out at first was a bit of a hassle. I did find that there is a slight difference between contact lens manufacturers. As an aside, I tried 3 brands and had the prescription tweaked before my ophthalmologist and I settled on the perfect fit. These were all free trial contacts that were included as part of the original fee for getting fitted for contacts (which included an extensive session with one of the assistants on putting them in and taking them off).

Anyway the first pair/brand -- which I believe were Ciba -- were fairly easy to get in once I got the hang of it, but I never did get the hang of getting them out. The first night I thought that I was going to have to wear them until I got back to the doctor's office for them to get them out! But I took a break to calm down, then watched some online tutorials for reassurance and additional tips. I got them out eventually and never had as much trouble again.

However when I changed to my ultimate pair, which are accuvue oaysys, I found that I had no problem getting them out, but they were a little more difficult to get in. 2 years later and I still can't pop them in without looking, and I still have the rare occasion where I can't get them in on the first try, but I can pluck them out of my eyes without looking in the mirror. I'm just mentioning this because it might be worth exploring similar type of contacts from another manufacturer if you seem to be struggling too much with your current brand.

I say go for it and know that you might struggle a bit the first few weeks (if that long) getting them in and/or out, but as others have mentioned, sooner or later it becomes second nature.
posted by kaybdc at 11:02 AM on December 10, 2011

Thank you for all of the amazing answers! They were all great and if I could, I'd mark them all as best answers.

Thanks for your insight!
posted by joyeuxamelie at 1:39 PM on December 22, 2011

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