What Happens When You Cry With Contacts In

7 sources cited
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Is it Safe to Cry With Contacts In?

Whether they’re tears of joy, sadness, pain, or fear, it’s safe to cry with your contacts in place.1 

The increase in tear fluid isn’t enough to make your contact lens fall out of place or harm your eye. Instead, the tears will wash over the front surface of the lenses and drain into the lacrimal sac or flow down your face.

However, avoid touching or rubbing your eyes, as you may cause wrinkling, folding, and dislodging. Instead, use a handkerchief or soft tissue to pat your eyes gently.  

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What Happens When You Cry With Contacts In?

Your eyes consist of a thin layer known as a “tear film” that lubricates, moistens, and protects against eye irritation and infection.2 The tear film is made up of three layers:

  1. Oily outer layer. Lubricates the surface of the eye.
  2. Watery middle layer. Moistens the eye.
  3. Inner mucus layer. Allows tears to stick to the corneal surface.

If you wear contact lenses, it’s normal to wonder how contacts interact with excess tears. Below is what happens when you shed emotional tears with your contacts in place: 

  • Tear production. A special gland above the eye known as the lacrimal gland is activated to produce tears when you get emotional. The fluid is supplied to the eye through the lacrimal ducts.
  • Tear distribution. As tears flow from the ducts, the fluid spreads across the cornea and the contact lens through blinking. 
  • Tear drainage. The tears drain into the lacrimal sac via tiny holes on the eyelids called the puncta (punctum when singular). Tears flow into the nasal cavity through the nasolacrimal duct, while the excess may flow down your cheeks.

Excess tears increase lubrication on the eye, allowing free movement of the contacts as you blink.

Side Effects of Crying With Contacts 

Below are the side effects of crying while wearing contacts:

Blurry Vision

When you cry, the tears form a thicker tear film.3 This affects how your contacts adhere to the eyeball surface. It may also affect how the light is refracted as it enters the eye, resulting in temporary blurriness (for a few minutes)

You can resolve this issue by gently dabbing the tears with a soft tissue or handkerchief. Rubbing your eyelids is not recommended as you may dislodge or scratch your contacts. 

You can also clear your vision with a few blinks. If it doesn’t work, remove the lenses with clean hands and allow yourself to cry. Remember to preserve the contact lenses in the multipurpose solution. Once your eyes return to normal, you can reapply them. 

Contacts Cling to the Eyelids

Excess tears may cause the contacts to move and cling to the eyelids. When this happens, you will experience blurry vision. 

Get help from a friend or use a mirror to locate the contact lens. Once you recover it, clean it before reapplying it.

Contacts Get Trapped Under the Eyelids

If you notice your contact lens has vanished from the cornea after crying, check if it fell out while rubbing your eyes or got stuck on the eyelashes. 

If you don’t find it, your contact lens might be stuck under your eyelid. This is not a medical emergency and is rare, especially for soft contact lenses.4

If you have a sterile contact lens solution, put some into your eye to flush the lens. Alternatively, close your eyes and gently massage the eyelids to move the contact towards the cornea or corner of the eye for easy removal. If you’re not successful, seek help from your eye doctor.

Contacts Fall Out

When you cry, the increase in tears may cause your contacts to move more freely on the eye surface. They rarely fall out unless you use rigid gas permeable or hard contact lenses.5 Soft lenses remain more stable under excess tearing.

If your hard contact lens falls out, pick it up immediately and place it in the saline lens solution or wetting fluid. Make sure to disinfect them before placing them back in your eyes.

If the hard contact lens dropped on a hard or rough surface, check for any scratches, cracks, or chips from the drop impact. Replace it if you notice any damage.

Soft contact lenses should be thrown away if they fall out.

Cloudy Contacts

Tears are made of enzymes, lipids, and mucus.6 When you cry with your contacts in place, these constituents may form deposits that stick to the contacts, making your vision cloudy.

You can solve this by removing the contacts and cleaning them before reapplying.

How to Clean Contacts After Crying 

Regardless of your type of contact, it’s important to clean them, especially after crying. Cleaning removes any deposits or makeup residues that find their way onto the surface of the lens.

Follow these steps to keep your contact lenses clean and sterile:

  • Step 1. Use soap and clean water to wash your hands and dry them with a clean cloth.
  • Step 2. Take out one contact lens and use the recommended lens solution to clean it. Use your fingers to gently rub the surface for better results. 
  • Step 3. Gently rub while rinsing the lens with a clean solution (do not use tap or sterile water). Experts recommend the “rub and rinse” method even when using a “no rub” solution.7
  • Step 4. Place it in a clean, sterile contact lens case and cover it with a contact lens solution. 
  • Step 5. Remove the other contact lens and repeat the steps above.

Do not transfer the lens cleaning solution to another container, as it increases the risk of contamination. When not in use, keep the cleaning solution bottle capped to prevent the entry of contaminants.

Summary

  • It’s safe to cry with contact lenses in place. The increase in tear fluid isn’t enough to make the contacts fall out or cause harm. 
  • However, avoid touching, rubbing, or blotting your eyes, as you may cause the contacts to wrinkle, fold, or dislodge.
  • The non-emergency consequences of crying while wearing contact lenses include cloudy vision, contacts falling out, and contacts getting stuck on or under the eyelids.
  • After crying, clean your contacts with a recommended cleaning solution before reapplying or storing them in their case.

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7 Cited Research Articles
  1. American Academy of Ophthalmology. “All About Emotional Tears,” 2017.
  2. National eye Institute. “How Tears Work,”2019.
  3. King-Smith, Barbara A. et al., “The Thickness of the Human Precorneal Tear Film: Evidence from Reflection Spectra,” Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, 2020.
  4. US FDA. “Types of Contact Lenses,” 2018.
  5. University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. “Soft vs. rigid contact lenses,” 2022.
  6. Davidson and Kuonen. “The tear film and ocular mucins,”  National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), 2004.
  7. American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Prevent Infection With Proper Contact Lens Care,” 2020.
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The information provided on VisionCenter.org should not be used in place of actual information provided by a doctor or a specialist.

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