The urban myth that contact lenses can become lodged behind the eye is false. At times wearers may not be able to feel the contact lens on the surface of their eye, but there are plenty of alternative explanations that are much more likely.
Contact lens technology has come a very long way since the very first glass contact lens inventions of the early 1900s. Nowadays, contact lenses are much softer, more flexible and allow more oxygen to reach the eye for better breathability and improved comfort. As a result, you may not even notice that you are wearing a contact lens even if it is still perfectly in place.
Contact lenses can also easily slip to the side of the eye, become dislodged and/or fall out entirely. Each of these instances can happen without the wearer noticing, but in most cases, it will be an uncomfortable experience and fairly obvious to the wearer when this occurs as their quality of vision may also change significantly.
Owing to the soft materials used to manufacture them, modern contact lenses are susceptible to tearing or ripping. If this happens it can be unpleasant and make it more difficult to remove the contact lens from your eyes.
How can I tell if a contact lens has broken in my eye?
If a torn piece of contact lens is stuck in your eye it will often feel uncomfortable and can even interrupt vision. If your contact lens is torn and becomes stuck in your eye, it is important to remove it and any smaller pieces as soon as possible to limit further discomfort.
What happens if my contact lens is torn?
Never wear a contact lens if it is torn. When you take a contact lens out of its packaging or when you handle it before insertion, always check each lens for defects or damage. Wearing damaged lenses is unsafe for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the poor fit and increased surface area of a torn lens can increase the risk of exposure to irritants that cause infections. Jagged edges found on the broken lens can scratch the surface of the cornea, leading to more complex issues including infections and vision loss. Secondly, a poorly fitting lens is more likely to become dislodged and leave the wearer without vision correction when they need it for activities such as driving.
If you have worn a broken contact lens for a significant period of time, seek advice from a registered optician. If you have been able to remove your broken lens immediately, stay mindful of how your eyes feel and seek help if discomfort persists.
How do I remove a broken contact lens?
For those who wear soft daily, two weekly or monthly contact lenses, removing a broken lens is not too dissimilar to removing a regular contact lens. It can be a little more challenging, but your broken disposable lens can be removed successfully in a few extra steps.
Alastair Lockwood, ophthalmologist, eye surgeon and resident eye health advisor for Feel Good Contacts offers the following advice for removing a broken contact lens:
- The first thing to do when going to remove a contact lens stuck in your eye is make sure you wash your hands. This should in fact be the first step in any eye care routine in order to prevent bacteria reaching the surface of your eye as this can lead to infections.
- Apply some rewetting drops to your eyes – these eye drops will moisten your eye and make it easier for you to remove the pieces of the lens. Try and blink to move the pieces of contact lens to the corner of your eye.
- Gently massage the lower and upper eyelids until you feel the pieces have come loose.
- After you massage your eyelid, carefully lift your eyelid and remove the lens fragments that are attached.
- Rinse your eyes with a saline solution to ensure hygiene. Our lens solution value pack is an effective and reliable choice for a soft contact lens or a rigid gas permeable lens and is therefore ideal for the task.
You might not be able to remove all of the fragments in one go, so repeat these steps until you’re confident that all fragments from the contact lens have been removed. If you are unsuccessful after a few tries, consult a medical professional like a GP or optician for assistance with the removal.
Rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses are more durable and are typically unlikely to tear. The above steps from removing a broken lens are not appropriate for an RGP lens. Instead, this can be more damaging to the eye so you should always seek help from a medical professional in the first instance.
How can I avoid getting a broken contact lens stuck in my eye?
The best thing that a contact lens wearer can do to prevent problems with broken contacts is to develop a robust and hygienic wearing routine. Always check contact lenses for tears before you put them in your eyes, follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer or by your optician and never wear contact lenses for longer than advised.
Torn contact lenses are not common, so there is no need for premature concern. However, if lenses are torn straight out of the packaging, Gov.UK recommends alerting the manufacturer as this could be the result of an affected batch and could impact other people.
On the occasion that you do experience a broken contact lens in your eye, the recommended steps should solve the issue.