When you wear contact lenses for the very first time, they may get stuck. Although this can feel miserable and irritating, it is common. You may even get terrified that your eye might be damaged further, but you need not fret.
It takes some practice and time before you can learn to remove stuck contact lenses. In this blog post, we share tips on how you can get a stuck contact lens out, but let us begin with the basics- why contacts stick in the first place.
WHY IS MY CONTACT LENS STUCK IN MY EYE?
The most common causes of a stuck contact lens are sleeping in them or not taking proper lens care.
Since contact lenses usually dry out if not stored properly, or when you sleep in them, they get stuck in the eye and can cause further problems if not removed properly
Whenever you sleep with your contacts on, the lack of blinking while you sleep reduces the moisture in the eye, causing the lens to dry out. In such a case, you should first drink water and let your eyes hydrate for a while before trying to remove the contacts.
WHAT HAPPENS IF CONTACTS GET STUCK IN THE EYE?
Contact lenses, both soft and gas permeable, do get stuck in the eye. Away from the myth that once the lens is stuck, it means it has shifted to the back of your eyeball, a contact lens can never make it to the back of the eyeball! You ask why- this is it- the eye is supplied with blood vessels and sensory neurons that are protected by the conjunctiva.
Unless your eyeball is totally detached from the body, there is no way the contact lens can find its way to the back of the eye.
Although both types of lenses can get stuck, the soft type lenses are more prone to this complication than the gas permeable lens. The important thing is that you need to know the type of lens stuck because both have very different removal methods.
HOW TO REMOVE A STUCK CONTACT LENS
As we've just mentioned above, soft and gas permeable (GP) contact lenses have different removal methods. Let's see how you should go about each situation.
REMOVING STUCK SOFT CONTACT LENS
The soft lens can get stuck in the center or off the center of your eye. Here is how to remove it depending on where it's stuck:
A contact lens in the center of the eye
Start by wetting the stuck content with a contact lens solution. You can use contact lens rewetting drops if you have them.
Give yourself a few seconds and rub the upper eyelids gently while your eye is closed. You should feel the lens moving.
If the lens doesn't move, repeat the rewetting and gentle upper eyelid massage. Try to blink more frequently to help the rewetting liquid distribute and around the stuck lens. Be patient- you may have to repeat the process for ten minutes before the lens is sufficiently wetted and movable.
Once the lens starts moving, you can remove it from the eye in the normal way.
Note: Sometimes, the process can irritate the eye after removal. In that case, apply artificial tears or sterile saline to lubricate the eye. If irritation persists, see an optician promptly as this could be a case of corneal abrasion.
CONTACT LENS OFF THE CENTER OF THE EYE
Soft contacts mostly get stuck under the upper eyelid but can also be under the lower lid. Either way, move the eye in the opposite direction to where the lens is stuck.
Rub the eyelid where the lens is stuck, frequently blinking in turns to bring the lens to the center of the eye. Be careful not to use excess force on rubbing as it could abrade the cornea.
Once the lens is at the center, it's no longer stuck, and you can remove it in the normal way. If it doesn't come off readily, apply a few drops of sterile saline to loosen it.
Note: Sometimes the contact lens may be stuck far close to the back of the eye. In such a case, wear a new contact lens to draw out the stuck lens, which can then be removed rather easily.
REMOVING A STUCK GAS PERMEABLE CONTACT LENS
Gas permeable (GP) contacts are rigid, and as such, you shouldn't massage or rub your eyelids to avoid scuffing the eye.
When the GP lens is stuck on the white of the eye, you need to break the suction holding it. You will need to press your eye gently at the edge of the lens to release the suction. You can then remove the lens easily.
Another option is using a suction device used for this purpose. You can buy the device in any contact lens store.
The device works by adhering to the lens through suction. Just press the suction end (concave-shaped) of the device onto the center of the stuck lens and then pull it gently together with the lens.
WHAT IF THE LENS GETS STUCK SOMEWHERE ELSE?
From the above discussion, it's clear that contacts can get stuck elsewhere apart from where you wear them (at the center of the eye). If this happens, you need to locate where the lens is stuck by feeling around the eyelids.
Once you've located the lens, look in the opposite direction and massage the eyelid. Do this as described under 'removing a lens stuck off the center of the eye.'
Remember to exercise patience as this process may take minutes. Do not panic in the process, but take short breaks before reattempting. The lens will eventually move to the center of the eye for easy removal.
EMERGENCY TIPS FOR BROKEN AND STUCK CONTACT LENSES
Although this is rare, sometimes the lens can break and get stuck in the eye. This sounds terrifying, but the following tips should help you avoid damaging your eye:
- Do not wear broken or torn lenses in the first place. Doing so can result in the broken edges scratching your cornea, or worse, small pieces of the lens breaking off in your eye. Still, a broken lens has a messed curvature which can cause it to move around the eye.
- Always inspect the contacts before wearing them. If they are broken, discard them off and buy a new pair. If the contacts break after wearing them, get them off your eye and replace them.
- Always remove any broken-off pieces of the lens in your immediately you become aware of it. Try using your fingertip to pull it out, or you can visit an eye doctor to help you. If there is a piece you can't locate, or see in your eye, have the doctor check your eye for any remnants.
- Always use eye drops or sterile saline to remove a stuck lens, but never tap water. Using tap water could expose your eye to bacteria present in the water.
- Acquaint yourself to handling contacts. Avoid pinching your lens in the middle to avoid breaking or tearing it. Also, ensure the contacts are floating in the solution when you store them to avoid breaking them with the lid when you close the case.
- Whenever you have a contact emergency, visit the doctor. This can be when the contact break or when irritation persists after removing a stuck lens.
Stuck contacts can feel like a nightmare, especially if you're new to them. The good thing is that removing a stuck lens is as simple as we've described above. If you think your case is unusual, visit the eye doctor immediately.