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How to Safely Remove a Contact Stuck in Your Eye

To safely remove a contact lens stuck in your eye, use rewetting drops or saline solution to loosen the lens. Gently massage your closed eyelid to attempt to move the contact into its normal position. If this doesn’t work, call your doctor.

woman with contact stuck in eye

Is a Stuck Contact Lens a Serious Issue?

One of the bigger concerns people who use contact lenses often have is that a lens might get stuck in their eye. 

The eye is a sensitive organ and the idea of a foreign object getting stuck and causing irritation causes some people to avoid contact lenses entirely. The truth is this rarely represents a major concern, so long as you know the proper steps to remove a stuck lens safely.

How to Remove a Stuck Soft Contact Lens

The first step to removing a contact lens is to identify its location. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends you relax your eyelid and see if you can feel the lens through the eyelid. If the contact lens is stuck higher or lower than usual, the removal procedure is often still very similar to how it normally is.

First, wash your hands thoroughly. If the lens feels especially stuck, you can apply sterile saline or artificial tears to where it sits in the eye. This can help it float, “unsticking” the lens from wherever it sits. Then, look in the opposite direction the lens is currently sitting (for example, look up if the lens is stuck near your bottom eyelid) and see if the lens gets into a more accessible position.

If the lens is still somewhere not immediately accessible, you can gently massage the lens from over your eyelid, very carefully pushing it up or down (whichever direction is toward the center of your eye). If this process causes any significant pain, stop immediately and seek medical attention.

Note that many people think they have a contact lens stuck in their eye when it has actually fallen out. If you can’t find your lens but feel no discomfort, it is possible it fell from your eye without you realizing it did.

How to Remove Stuck RGP Lenses

The process of removing a stuck RGP lens is similar to the above. However, there are a few key differences to keep in mind:

  • Be even more gentle, as these lenses remain in use for a longer period of time. You don’t want to tear the lens or hurt your eye by pressing too hard.
  • RGP lenses are rigid, making it more important you do not use excessive force and that you stop if pain or irritation occurs.
  • Complications are rare and may signal your lens and/or eyes need reexamining and potentially replacing.

Regarding that final point, removing soft lenses should also be easy. However, RGP lenses need to be held to especially precise standards because of how long they remain in use and their harder, more durable nature.

What to Do if You Cannot Remove a Stuck Contact

If you cannot remove a contact lens with your hands, a small amount of pressure, and by flushing the eye with extra saline or artificial tears, stop. Do not use extra force or tools, especially tools not designed for the task, without being expressly told to by a medical professional specializing in eye care. 

If a lens is difficult to remove, contact a medical professional immediately. You should also contact an eye doctor if you experience significant pain, redness, or other signs of irritation. 

Risks When Removing Stuck Contacts

One notable risk when removing a contact lens is exposing the eye to bacteria. As a wet, exposed organ, eyes can foster germs and become infected fairly easily without proper care. Always make sure to practice good hygiene and follow all recommended procedures when removing a contact lens. 

It is also possible to damage the eye when removing a contact lens. Normally, this is because a person applies too much force or a fingernail scratches the eye by accident. It is also possible that a damaged lens or a lens that is out of position, such as if it is inside out, may have edges to it that can scratch the eye in some circumstances.

If removing a lens seems to require that you break from normal procedures, contact a doctor instead of doing it yourself. Follow all proper precautions and only use prescription lenses designed for your eyes. 

Why Do Contact Lenses Get Stuck?

Contact lenses can get stuck for a number of reasons. Most commonly, a person’s eye or the lens itself gets dried out. This is why most stuck lenses become unstuck with some rewetting drops or saline and gentle motion. 

A lens may also get stuck if it becomes damaged or it is placed incorrectly. This is why it is important to check that a lens is not inside out before putting it on the eye.

Can a Contact Get Lost in Your Eye?

Because of the structure of your eye and eyelids, a contact lens cannot “get lost” in a healthy, normal eye. It is impossible for a contact lens to slide behind your eye, even if dryness or damage to the lens has caused it to become difficult to remove. 

If you believe a contact lens has become lost in your eye, it is much more likely it fell out of your eye and you didn’t notice. If you don’t think this is the case, talk to a medical professional to confirm.

Prevention

Proper lubrication and application procedures usually make removing contact lenses simple. When you first get your contact lenses, talk to your doctor about the best practices you should follow. They can also tell you signs you can look out for that may signal you should temporarily stop using contacts, such as redness, irritation, or other issues that can make contacts more difficult to remove.

References

  1. Contact Lens Care. American Optometric Association.

  2. Contact Lens Risks. (September 2018). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

  3. How Do I Get a Contact Lens Out From the Top of My Eye? (September 2012). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  4. The #1 Worst Thing That Can Happen To Your Eyes When You Take Out Your Contacts. (November 2016). Men’s Health.

  5. Why Can’t I Remove My RGP Contact Lens? (January 2021). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  6. Contact Lens Discomfort. Bausch + Lomb.

  7. Contact Lens-Related Complications: A Review. (April–June 2017). Journal of Ophthalmic & Vision Research.

Last Updated April 6, 2022

Note: This page should not serve as a substitute for professional medical advice from a doctor or specialist. Please review our about page for more information.