Friday, March 19, 2010

How to find a lost contact lens and how to prevent contact lens loss

Losing a contact lens is something that has happened to all contact lens wering patients as well as to eye doctors who regularly dispense them. I confess that it is easier to lose a rigid gas permeable contact lens than a soft lens, but soft lenses can disappear from view as well. In the soft lens category, the toric lenses are the easiest to lose due to the fact that they are frequently thicker on one side making it more likely that the lens will slip off of your finger when trying to insert it.

So, how can you prevent the loss of a contact lens? First of all, if you are working over a sink make sure that the drain is closed. If you have a sink that does not have a drain stopper, place a washcloth over the drain to prevent the lens from going down the drain. If you do lose a contact lens down the drain, immediately turn off the water. You can take apart the pipes below the drain or call a plumber to do this. It is not very complicated. Have a bucket ready to place under the area that you are working in because once you disconnect the pipes water will come out as well as your contact lens. (Note: In our new era of disposable contact lenses the loss of one lens is not quite the emergency that it was when we did not have disposable lenses. Lenses are still being prescribed that are either not quite as disposable or simply not disposable, such as rigid gas permeable lenses. These lenses can be quite expensive and it is definitely worth it to make an effort not to lose these products.) Getting back to retrieving the contact lens, once it comes out check it out to make sure it is not scratched or damaged. Clean and disinfect it overnight and it should be good to go the next day. If the lens looks suspicious or you are not sure about its condition, please have your eye doctor inspect it.

If the lens falls on the floor, this is the best technique for finding it: Get a flashlight and turn off the lights in the room. Be careful where you step because if you step on the lens it will most likely be history. Get down low to the floor and shine the flashlight beam across the surface of the floor making sure your eyes are as close to the floor as possible. Using this technique the lens will be illuminated and will stand out so you can find it. Again, inspect, clean and disinfect it prior to putting it back in your eye. If the lens cannot be found on the floor it is most likely stuck on a vertical surface, on top of something nearby or in your clothing or it could even possibly have found its way under your clothing. You can use the side lighting technique I have described above for vertical surfaces as well. I have found contact lenses in pockets, cuffs, etc., and I have had my female patients actually report having found lost lenses in their bras. So check everywhere the lens might actually have gone.

A good technique to help prevent loss is to work over a desk or horizontal surface and to put down a white towel. Make sure you have good lighting. If you drop the lens it will fall on the (hopefully) clean towel surface and it will be unlikely to bounce off. Have a bottle of saline/disinfecting solution nearby for rinsing. If you are having problems with insertion and removal, schedule a tune up visit with your doctor for more recommendations on the best techniques for insertion and removal.

What do you do if you lose the contact lens in your eye? First of all, don't panic. The lens cannot work its way up into your brain because the area around the eye is an enclosed environment. Check your vision. If you can see, it is still on your eye. If you cannot see, it has to be above, below or on the sides. Look in the mirror and try to see it. If you can and it is a soft lens simply pull it out. If you cannot see it the lens can sometimes get folded in half and sort of lodge itself up under your upper eyelid. You can close your eyes and look down and use your fingers to massage the lens to either side where you can see it and remove it. If it is a rigid lens, do the same thing. You can either push the rigid lens back on the cornea and remove it or you can use a small suction cup...available from your eye remove it. If all else fails, call your eye doctor and schedule an office visit to have it removed.

Lastly, there is a product available that is made of soft plastic that can be used to cover the drain opening. The center has a raised top that sits over the drain opening and there are multiple small holes so that water can go down the drain but your contact lens cannot. If you are interested in information about this product, please contact me at my email address. If you have any additional questions about the condition of lenses that have been dropped and possibly have become damaged, make sure your eye doctor inspects the lens before you use it again.


  1. Thanks! I lost a contact lens the other day. It is a hard contact lens and I spent $380 on it. Thought I'd never find it, but followed your advice above and voila! Found it :-)

  2. I'd like to replace my gas permeable lenses with soft disposable ones because I lose them all the time and it IS expensive. I've worn them for over 40 years and am not sure if I could get used to them and could see as well.
    Thanks, Diana Strain