British doctors find mass of contact lenses under patient's eyelid

Doctors at a hospital in England were surprised to find a mass of contact lenses under a 67-year-old patient's eyelid, during what should have been routine cataract surgery.

Woman thought contacts had fallen out and would simply insert a new lens, doctor says

While a patient was in hospital for cataract surgery, a mass of contact lenses stuck to each other were found under the patient's eyelid. (British Medical Journal)

There's nothing worse than getting a contact lens stuck in your eye — except, maybe, 27 contact lenses.

According to an article published in the British Medical Journal, doctors at a hospital in England found a total of 27 contact lenses in a 67-year-old female patient's eye.

Dr. Rupal Morjaria, a specialist trainee in ophthalmology who now practises in Birmingham, was the one who examined the patient.

A 'blue mass of lenses'

Morjaria told CBC Radio's As it Happens that the patient was in hospital for cataract surgery.

When the anesthesiologist injected a topical anesthetic, he noticed a "blue shadow" under the patient's top lid.

Doctors examined further, and found a blue mass of lenses under the eyelid.

"It was 17 contact lenses compacted together," said Morjaria, in an interview with As it Happens' Helen Mann. "It was like a blue solidified mass of mucus around it."

After further examination, Morjaria removed an additional 10 lenses — 27 in total — from the patient's eye.

The woman was awake during the removal process, but her eye was anesthetized and numb to pain. Morjaria said the patient was calm during the whole procedure.

I think she was just relieved that there was a reason for her discomfort.- Dr. Rupal Morjaria

There were no additional contact lenses in the patient's other eye.

"After I removed all the lenses … I had to think about whether it was safe to perform cataract surgery, because that's what she'd come in for," said Morjaria. "I think she was just relieved that there was a reason for her discomfort."

The patient was prescribed antibiotics, and her cataract surgery was rescheduled for a later date.

Assumed lens had fallen out

Morjaria said that the patient isn't sure how she got so many contact lenses stuck in her eye.

"The only thing she said to me was they were mostly disposable lenses, but whenever she was to change her lenses, if she couldn't find it, she'd just put another one in," said Morjaria. "She just assumed it had fallen out."

Morjari said that the patient also had deep set eyes.

"So maybe just the way they were sitting, she couldn't feel it as much," said Morjaria. "I can only imagine that the reason she was only having mild symptoms is because it was not near the front of the eye, it was quite far back."

At the patient's followup examination two weeks later, she reportedly said that she felt great.

"She's been doing really well from what I hear," said Morjaria.

How to care for contacts

The Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) advises a number of steps to safely insert and remove contact lenses, including:

  • Avoid using your fingernails to handle your lenses.
  • Get in the habit of always working with the same (right or left) lens first to avoid mix-ups.
  • Don't sleep or nap while wearing your contacts unless specifically indicated.
  • Remove, clean and disinfect your lenses at the intervals prescribed.
  • Have regular eye examinations.

The CAO also recommends only wearing contact lenses for as long as your optometrist prescribes, even if there's no discomfort.