Contact emergency! How to fix those common contact mishaps

Contact emergency! How to fix those common contact mishaps

Stuck lenses, torn lenses, old lens solution, toothpaste. If you've worn contacts for some time, you may have experienced one or more of these common ailments. While there are many benefits to wearing contact lenses, they can be compromised if the special instructions on how to use and care for them are not followed.

Case in point: Nearly 41 million American adults wear contact lenses and virtually every single one does something to get germs in his or her eyes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[1] Nearly a third of contact wearers said they went to the doctor because of red or painful eyes, and at least half admit to sleeping or napping with their lenses in.[2]

In short, when you live with something as close to you as a contact, you tend to forget it's there, or that it needs special care. And sometimes, this can lead to an emergency situation.

Avoiding contacts lens crises

While oftentimes contact lens wearers may experience mini contact crises they can manage on their own, there are several actions that can lead to more serious and immediate emergencies.

    Following are some of these common contact lens issues and real-world solutions:

  • Stuck! If a contact lens gets stuck in your eye, don't panic. Wash your hands and determine where the contact is. If it is centered on the cornea (basically the iris and pupil) then it is likely dried out; perhaps the result of napping with your lens in. Gently rinse your eye with saline solution, contact solution or eye drops, then close your eye and massage the lid until you feel the contact move. Rinse and repeat as needed. If the lens is elsewhere in your eye, move your eye in the opposite direction of where you think it is and gently massage your eyelid and/or blink to coax it to the center of your eye, where it can be rinsed and removed.[1]
  • Torn lens! If your contact lens is torn, then you better reach for the frames. Professionals strongly advise against wearing a torn lens, as it could scratch the cornea. Worse, the tear could collect bacteria that could deliver infections and other problems. To ensure you don't run out of lenses, set a regular reminder on your smart phone or calendar to re-order at regular intervals so you always have a backup pair.[2]
  • It burns! Violent stinging or burning from contacts could be due to a range of factors from allergies to dry eyes. Dust, pollen and pet dander can collect on the lenses, as could protein deposits and other debris. Sometimes you can develop sensitivity to the preservatives in your contact solution. The best way to determine the cause is to see your eye doctor. In the meantime, try using lubricating eye drops or switching to a preservative-free contact lens cleaner.[3]
  • Backwards! You won't hurt yourself if you put your conctact lens in inside out, though it may feel uncomfortable and possibly pop put. To avoid putting the lens in backwards, place it on the tip of your finger with the edge pointing up, and look directly at the lens from the side. If it forms a perfect cup shape, you've got it right.[4]
  • Old solution! If you top off yesterday's old soluton with fresh, rather than replenishing all of it, you risk using a solution that does not have enough organism-killing properites. The upshot is the lenses might not be disinfected. Refill with fresh solution each day, and fill the bowls to the brim.[5]

Lastly, we come to the toothpaste emergency. Anyone who has attempted to apply a contact lens after brushing his or her teeth and not fully rinsing his or her hands knows fully the jolting discomfort of this little mishap, so be sure to wash your hands--every time--before touching your eyes.


1. "CDC to 40 Million Contact Lens Wearers: You're Doing It Wrong," by Maggie Fox, NBC News, Aug. 21, 2015,

2. Ibid.

3. "Contact Stuck in My Eye: Please Help!" by Gary Heiting,,

4. "Is it Safe to Wear a Torn Contact?" by Heather Creekmore, July 31, 2014, MyBestContacts,

5. 'Why Do Contacts Burn?" by Gary Heiting,,

6. "Are My Contacts Inside Out?" by Gary Heiting,,

7. "7 Sins of Contact Lens Wearers," by Laura McMullen, Oct. 18, 2013, U.S. News and World Report