Contact Stuck in Eye: What to Do
New contact lens wearers usually worry about the lenses getting stuck in their eyes. Although this is possible—especially for soft contact lenses—it does not pose any danger to your eyesight, and they can be safely removed without the help of a doctor.
A contact lens can get stuck in your eye if you sleep with it or rub your eyes too hard. Sometimes, it's hard to know if the lens got stuck in the eye or fell out. However, there are signs you can observe and steps to follow to remove stuck contact lenses safely.
You may experience the following if a contact lens gets stuck in your eye:
- Eye irritation
- Red eyes
- A feeling of an object in your eye
- Difficulty opening eyes
- Sharp, scratching pain
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How to Safely Remove a Contact Stuck in Your Eye
As annoying and discomforting as the experience may be, the stuck contact lens does not endanger your eyesight. You can remove it safely if you know its exact location. In most cases, a contact lens gets stuck while centered on the cornea (the clear front part of the eye).
Before you attempt the removal procedure, wash your hands thoroughly and dry them with a lint-free towel.
Removing a Contact in the Center of the Eye
If your contact lens is stuck in the center of your eye, it likely dried out. This is common for people who sleep with contact lenses. If this happens, do the following:
- Wet the lens with saline solution, contact lens rewetting drops, or approved artificial tears. Avoid wetting with tap water as it may harbor infection-causing bacteria such as acanthamoeba.1
- After wetting your eyes, blink several times to spread the wetting solution and hydrate the lens.
- Close your eyes and gently massage the upper eyelids until you feel the lens move.
- As soon as it moves, remove it as you usually would.
If the contact lens is still stuck after the first attempt, don't panic—repeat the above procedure. It can take up to 15 minutes to sufficiently rehydrate the lens for removal, so exercise patience.
Removing Contact Behind the Eye
Many contact lens wearers worry about contacts getting stuck behind their eyes. However, this is not possible.
If you can't see your contact lens, it's likely stuck under your upper eyelid. The inner membrane of the eyelids (conjunctiva) forms a barrier that prevents objects from moving to the back of the eye.2
Do the following to remove a contact lens stuck under the eyelid:
- Lubricate your eye(s) with rewetting drops, multipurpose solution, or sterile saline.
- Lightly massage your eyelids and blink regularly to move the lens toward the center.
- With clean hands, lift your upper eyelid and look in the opposite direction of the lens location (if you suspect the upper right side, look down towards the left).
- Once you see it, drag it with the tip of your finger and pinch it out.
Note: Do not pinch the contact lens if it's centered on the cornea, as this may cause a painful scratch and permanent scarring. Instead, drag it towards the sclera (white of the eye) and gently pinch it out.
Removing a Gas Permeable Contact Lens
Gas permeable (GP) contact lenses are more rigid than soft contact lenses but get stuck similarly.3 If your gas permeable (GP) lenses get stuck, avoid massaging your eyelid, as this risks scraping your eye surface (corneal abrasion).4
Follow these steps to safely remove a gas permeable lens stuck in the eye:
- Lubricate your eye(s) with an appropriate wetting solution.
- With your fingertip, gently press your eye near the edge of the contact lens to unstick it from the eye surface.
- Open your eyes and firmly blink to pop the lens out. Catch it with your other hand cupped under your eye.
You can also use a small suction cup device to remove the GP lens safely. The suction cup has a concave end that sticks to the lens, enabling easy removal. You can get it in the eye care section of your drugstore.
When to See an Eye Doctor
If all your efforts to remove the stuck contact lens are unsuccessful and you're starting to panic, call your eye doctor. They can talk you through the process.
Note that you may experience some dryness, irritation, or discomfort after removing a stuck contact lens; this is normal. In this case, use sterile saline artificial tears to lubricate the eye and let it rest before reinserting your contacts.
Consult your eye doctor if you experience vision changes or severe eye pain. Prolonged discomfort may signify a problem, such as corneal abrasion or infection, which will require professional treatment.
How to Prevent Stuck Contacts
A stuck contact lens does not pose any risk to your eye unless it's broken, chipped, or torn. A broken contact lens may have jagged edges that can cause eye injury.
You can prevent contact lenses from getting stuck in your eye by doing the following:
- Do not sleep with your contacts
- Avoid rubbing your eyes as this may fold, and move the lens under your upper lid
- Rubbing can also introduce infection-causing bacteria into your eye
- Avoid showering or swimming with your contacts
- Stick to the lenses prescribed by your optician and consult an eye care professional before changing to avoid the risk of buying too tightly fitting contacts
- A contact lens can get stuck in your eye if you sleep with it or rub your eyes too hard. However, it's normal.
- Symptoms of a stuck contact lens may include irritation, red eyes, pain, and difficulty opening eyes.
- To safely remove a stuck soft contact lens, wet your eyes, blink frequently, and massage your upper eyelid until the lens starts moving.
- For gas permeable contact lenses, use your fingertip to gently press your eye near the edge of the contact lens to unstick it from the eye surface.
- Consult your doctor if you experience eye pain or vision changes after removal.
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