Contact lens lost in eye

Dear Alice,

I lost my contact in my eye. What should I do?

Dear Reader, 

Eye, caramba! The good news is that contact lenses can’t actually get lost in your eye. It’s more likely that the lens moved out of its usual position and is now causing irritation rather than actually being stuck behind your eye. As annoying and frustrating as a contact lens gone awry can be, try taking a deep breath, washing your hands and face (if possible), and gathering up patience before you go hunting for it. 

Due to the structure of the eye, a contact lens would have a hard time actually “get lost.” There’s a membrane called the conjunctiva that lines the eyelid and meets with the sclera—a tough layer of tissue that covers the entire eye—in order to keep foreign particles from reaching the rest of the eye. It’s likely, the contact lens can be found folded under the upper eyelid. 

To get your contact lens out, consider using a generous amount of saline solution in the eye before attempting removal as it can help to clean the area. If you wear soft contacts, this rush of fluid may also help to flush the contact out of your eye or at least into a position that makes its removal easier. If you’re able to remove the contact, it’s recommended that you soak the lens in fresh solution for a few seconds to help it return to its original shape. If this approach doesn’t work, you may want to turn your upper eyelid inside out by grabbing your eyelashes and folding it over a cotton swab. From there, you may attempt to gently remove the lens using light touch of the fingertip. Try to be mindful of your fingernails while moving the lens around so you don’t end up scratching your eye. If you wear hard contacts or gas permeable contacts, avoid rubbing your eyes as doing so can cause abrasions and potential damage to the eye. Instead, you might also try using eye drops to lubricate your eyes, making it easier to remove the lens. 

It’s also possible that the contact lens has already come out on its own and the irritation that you are feeling is the after effects of the foreign object having been where it was—out of place. To relieve some of this discomfort, you might try rinsing or bathing the affected eye with cool water or using over-the-counter preservative-free saline drops to rinse any lingering bacteria. If removing the contact lens on your own turns out to be unsuccessful or irritation after removal is persistent, it’s recommended that you contact a health care provider specializing in eyes as soon as possible as it's possible you've scratched your eye. To prevent future relocation of your contact lenses, try to avoid rubbing your eyes and sleeping in your contact lenses. If you notice your contacts moving more days than not, you might consider speaking with your eye care professional to discuss potential solutions. Best of luck to you and go easy on your eye(s)! 

Last updated Mar 24, 2023
Originally published Aug 20, 1998

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