What happened?
November 29, 2020 6:19 PM   Subscribe

A couple decades ago, when I was a teenager, I lost a contact up in that pocket behind the eyelid. My parents were unconcerned and this was before the internet had an answer for every common question.* I was 100% sure it was stuck inside The top of my eye somewhere and have since learned that there is in fact a pocket behind the eye lid (or something) where people do lose their contacts. But my eye never got infected and I never found a stray contact in my eye. SO... what happened?

I'm looking for answers based on experience. Not idle speculation. Speaking of idle speculation, did my body just... get rid of it? Like, break down the plastic into removeable parts? Or something? What is most likely? I AM so CURIOUS! Thanks!

*These days, the internet assumes I recently lost a contact.
posted by aniola to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Ophthalmologist here. YANMP, IAMNYD, TINMA, etc.

Please allow me to preempt any laymen's advice that may follow.

For any medical issues, please seek actual medical attention, and please do not seek medical advice from the internet. I can already guarantee that the quality of information that you will get here will be specious at best.
posted by aquamvidam at 6:30 PM on November 29, 2020 [26 favorites]

What kind of contact?
posted by mr_roboto at 6:41 PM on November 29, 2020

Hello! Layperson #1 (but let’s skip the gendered stuff, mkay?)

My family Doctor dad says he’s curious to know what kind of material your contacts were made of, but regardless is pretty confident that the lost lens is still there. He is a pretty relaxed guy but says “Are your eyes excessively tear-y, particularly on the side where the lost contact was? Do you have significant seasonal allergies all year? Any pain or discomfort? No? Then I wouldn’t worry about it, but mention it to your doctor next time you see them and get regular checkups because we all need those.”

Also googling suggested this interesting article - so you aren’t alone!

posted by arnicae at 6:42 PM on November 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

By "the pocket behind the eyelid," do you literally mean the area under your eyelid, where it comes into contact with your eyeball until it connects to your brow? I'm so confused by that part of your question- obviously you knew that that area between your eyelid and eye existed...are you saying you learned there's a separate pocket?

In my experience, when I've gotten a contact stuck up there, it was extremely, acutely noticeable until the contact was out. So I'm assuming it probably worked itself out in your sleep. But then I found this case study of woman who had a contact stuck in her eye for 28 years (?!). So I guess it's possible for a contact to stay stuck without someone noticing right away!
posted by quiet coyote at 6:42 PM on November 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

There are some cases in the literature of lenses found years later, however. They appear to usually be found in the soft tissue above the eye (the superior fornix), and rarely in the eyelid itself, having become partially or wholly encased in the tissue and/or mucous. This led to local swelling, abrasions on the eye, some effects from deforming the eye from the swelling, or becoming areas where infections would recur. I don't know if there would be a known number of cases of asymptomatic lost lenses because one may not find them if they don't cause symptom, until they do - like anything else embedded in the skin. Hard lenses seem to get stuck more often in these cases, but maybe it's because they cause more symptoms? It doesn't look like I can find any partial lenses in the cases, though - which suggests they don't readily dissolve.

But yes, mention it to your ophtho at your next visit, but I wouldn't rush over unless you have problems with that eye, since it's already been years. Again, none of this is medical advice, I'm not your provider, this isn't a consultation, etc etc.
posted by cobaltnine at 6:50 PM on November 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

It probably fell out and you didn’t notice. I used to wear soft contacts and the same thing (misplaced contact getting stuck up there) happened once or twice, and at least once I never felt it fall out, I just found the contact stuck to my shirt later. If I hadn’t found it, I wouldn’t ever have known.
posted by LizardBreath at 7:14 PM on November 29, 2020 [11 favorites]

It probably fell out and you didn’t notice. I used to wear soft contacts and the same thing (misplaced contact getting stuck up there) happened once or twice, and at least once I never felt it fall out, I just found the contact stuck to my shirt later. If I hadn’t found it, I wouldn’t ever have known.

The same thing happened to me. I couldn't feel it when it was up above my eyeball, and I didn't feel it when it came out, either. The only reason I noticed it had come out is it got stuck to my cheek.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:28 PM on November 29, 2020 [6 favorites]

My experience inexpertly putting in my first contacts as a teen did result in them going astray but the dramatic blinking and tearing reaction caused me to blink them right out. Unless you crawled around on the floor looking for it and didn’t find it despite an exhaustive search, chances are you blinked it out too.
posted by Miko at 7:29 PM on November 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

This is not medical advice, got it.

Gas-permeable (hard) contact. No known symptoms.
posted by aniola at 8:59 PM on November 29, 2020

Something similar happened to my wife where she was convinced that her contact had got trapped. We went to accident and emergency but on examination it wasnt there. We were told that the sensation we were feeling was probably a scratch caused by the contact and that it had likely fallen out at some point. The same thing may have occured to you; obviously if you are concerned then consult your doctor but the fact that its been two decades and you dont notice anything seems to imply to me that it fell out at some point
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:33 PM on November 29, 2020

I never had hard contacts so I don't know how stiff they really are; but I used to wear soft contacts and on one occasion I was rubbing my eye and the contact inverted and must have been just exactly dry enough to basically laminate to the surface of my finger firmly enough to be difficult to peel off, which I didn't notice at first in dim surroundings but did when I stepped into the light. So perhaps something similar could have happened, but the contact fell away before you noticed it.
posted by XMLicious at 2:18 AM on November 30, 2020

I'm looking for answers based on experience. Not idle speculation. Speaking of idle speculation

So contradictory! what are you actually seeking?

I’ve been wearing rigids since I was a teenager. Every few years, I’ll blink with my eyes looking in a particular direction and my contact will pop out painlessly. Last time, my partner saw it happen. It fell into my dinner. Took forever to clean.
posted by lemon_icing at 3:57 AM on November 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

I definitely thought I had both contacts in but when I went to take them out the right one was missing. I found it the next time I cleaned the bathroom, all dried up and stuck to the side of the sink. So I vote it probably fell out and you didn't notice is more likely than ot got stuck in your eyeball and you didn't notice.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:37 AM on November 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

As a former gas permeable contact wearer, now with soft... I think it would be so difficult for a hard contact to a) get stuck without you initially noticing and b) just never having any symptoms at all... I could imagine it happening with a soft contact, but the hard ones are so irritating it just seems extremely unlikely for any lengthy period of time, even if there are a few quirky media stories about decades long contact hideouts.
posted by RajahKing at 6:40 AM on November 30, 2020

I've been wearing hard contacts for almost 20 years. If a contact lens got off-kilter and ended up somewhere else around my eyeball, I would be tearing nonstop and there would be a noticeable amount of discomfort or pain, especially if you look up/down/left/right. The edge of those lenses can really hurt and cause abrasions.

My guess is you blinked it out of your eye. This has happened to me a few times when my eye is dry. I do the "blink" method to get my contacts out, and this can easily be done when your eyelids are dry/a bit stuck to your eyeball. You blink, and your upper and lower lids close down and actually eject the lens from your eye.
posted by extramundane at 6:44 AM on November 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

This actually happened to me back in college. I thought I lost a hard contact taking it out. A few WEEKS later, I woke up and could see out of one eye--as someone who's had to use vision correction since she was a small child, one of the most disorienting things that has ever happened to me. The contact had worked its way back down from...wherever it had gotten to...in my sleep. I had no noticeable discomfort in that eye before then.

I'd just speak to my ophthalmologist about it.
posted by praemunire at 8:07 AM on November 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

It happened was when I was putting it in. I used to do the thing where I put the contact on the white above my eye and then slid it into place. This time, it went the wrong way. I watched it getting caught. I was horrified.

If you don't believe it happened, your answer is not relevant to my question.
That belief is why I am asking this question now instead of an eye doctor twenty years ago.

It's a liitle reassuring to hear that this is at least common. Hopefully it fell out in my sleep a few days/weeks/months later. I will ask an eye doctor when the pandemic is over. They can put a note in my record or something in case I ever get an infection.

More directly relevant anecdotes, scientific articles etc. are still welcome. Thanks!
posted by aniola at 12:38 PM on November 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

Ah so you were putting it in? Most of the answers here are assuming that you were already wearing them and suddenly the contact was no longer in its correct spot. The simplest explanation would then be that it somehow popped it of your eye.
posted by extramundane at 2:05 PM on November 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

I know someone who had this experience; contact was lost for at least a year, but it wages ago, so I don't remember. He'd thought there was something wrong, and the hard contact came out on its own. It was kind of corroded. No ill effects.
posted by theora55 at 5:52 PM on November 30, 2020

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