An unidentified woman in the U.K. landed in a medical journal case report after a contact lens she thought she lost in her teens was actually embedded in her eyelid for 28 years.
According to the report, which was published in the journal BMJ Case Reports, the woman was hit in the eye during a game of badminton when she was 14 and thought she lost her contact lens. She apparently didn’t think much of it and went about her life. But when she was 42, the woman visited an ophthalmologist because her left eye had been swollen and drooping for six months.
Doctors could feel a small lump under her skin, so they ordered an MRI. That showed that she had a cyst just above her left eye that was 8 by 4 by 6 millimeters, and her doctors removed it via surgery. But after the cyst was removed, it broke open and doctors discovered the woman’s “lost” contact lens was inside it.
Since it all happened 28 years ago, the woman didn’t immediately remember the badminton accident, but her mom did. Here’s the thing: Other than the eye-drooping that prompted the visit to the doctor, she didn’t have any symptoms of this for 28 years, doctors write in the case report.
Obviously, this woman’s situation was rare enough to make a case report, but contact lenses can and do get lost in people’s eyes, Bavand Youssefzadeh, an ophthalmologist in Beverly Hills, Calif., tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It’s not common, but it happens,” he says.
Most people will have symptoms, such as the feeling that something is stuck in their eye or eye irritation, but some don’t even realize they have a contact lost in their eyes. “I’ve said to patients during an eye exam, ‘Do you know that you have a contact lens stuck in your eye?’ and they say, ‘I’ve been looking for that!’” Youssefzadeh says. Still others will have pain but not know why. Christopher J. Rapuano, MD, chief of the cornea service at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that he once had to remove 14 contact lenses stuck under a patient’s eyelid. The patient had eye pain but didn’t know why, he says.
The fact that this woman wore a hard contact lens matters in this case, Jeffrey J. Walline, associate dean for research at the Ohio State University College of Optometry, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. Hard lenses can be uncomfortable at first because your eyelid rubs over the edge of the lens, but your eyes and eyelids are usually able to adapt to that situation, he says. “When a contact lens is lost under the eyelid, the edge of the eyelid does not rub over the edge of the contact lens, so there may not be any discomfort, especially for an adapted contact lens wearer,” he says.
If you happen to get a hard contact lens embedded in your eyelid, it will usually be uncomfortable at first. In this case, the woman probably thought the pain was due to getting hit in the eye. After a while, your eyelid can heal, making a lens that’s stuck in there pretty undetectable, Walline says. (For the record, the whole contact-embedded-in-your-eyelid situation is pretty rare, he says.)
The good news is that if a contact lens gets lost in your eye, it won’t go toward the back of your eye or anyplace that’s dangerous to your vision, Youssefzadeh says. Instead, it’s more likely that it will go into the pouch in the corner of your eye, where it may or may not irritate you.
If you’re not sure where your contact lens is and you can’t feel it, it’s best to try to rinse out your eye with contact solution, massage it, and see if anything pops out, Youssefzadeh says. If you’re still not sure, it’s a good idea to see your eye doctor for an eye exam, Walline says, and that’s especially true if your eye becomes red, your vision gets blurry, or your eye is uncomfortable. Your doctor should be able to tell pretty quickly if there’s anything lodged in your eye.
For the record, if you’re keeping tabs of how often you put your contacts in and take them out, it’s unlikely that you’ll have a contact lost in your eye at all, let alone for several decades, Rapuano says. Ditto with having regular eye exams. “Your doctor should be able to spot it,” Youssefzadeh says.
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