JUL 20, 2017 3:18 PM PDT

Doctors Fish 27 Contact Lenses From Woman's Eye

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Here’s something that ophthalmologists don’t usually get to do: fish out 27 contact lenses out of a patient’s eye.

The patient is a 67 year old woman who complained of dry eye and discomfort in her eye. Consequently, surgeons scheduled her for a routine cataract operation.

However, right before they were about to numb her eye, surgeons discovered something odd. "He [Richard Crombie – a consultant anesthetist] put a speculum into the eye to hold the eye open as he put the anesthetic in, and he noticed a blue mass under the top eyelid," said Rpual Morjaria, a specialist trainee in ophthalmology, and the study’s lead author.

That turned out to be the first clump of lenses that, when peeled apart, totaled 17 lenses.

"We were all shocked," Morjaria said. "We've never come across this."

But that wasn’t all. In another subsequent exam, doctors found an additional 10 lenses in the same eye.

"This is one for the record books, as far as I could tell," said Dr. Thomas Steinemann, regarding the 27 lenses. Steinemann is a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

The story unfolds to yield more eyebrow-raising details. She is not a new contact lens wearer; rather, she’s been wearing monthly disposable contacts for 35 years. While she was quite used to putting in and taking out her contact lenses, she reported that sometimes she couldn’t find the lenses in her right eye. This led her to falsely assume that the lens had dropped out somewhere, and she promptly added a new lens. Consistent with these events, the woman reported an imbalance in visual acuity – mainly that she had poor vision in the right eye as compared to the normal left eye.

In the case of the woman, doctors think her “deep set eyes” could have contributed to the "unusually large number of retained foreign bodies," per the case report.

The authors point out that it’s not that uncommon for contact lenses to get trapped in eyes. However, to have that many lenses get caught is a big anomaly – one that warrants awareness for the general public.

If you are a contact wearer and experience a “funny sensation in the eye,” which include pain, increased sensitivity, and/or redness, Morjaria says to err on the side of caution and get it checked out.

As for the patient, doctors couldn’t estimate just how long it took for the 27 lenses to accumulate in her eye. They were particularly worried about bacterial infections since that clump of disposable lenses could have turned into a breeding ground for microorganisms. Thus, her surgery was postponed for two weeks, after which point, she received the surgery and is reportedly doing much better.

Additional sources: Live Science, CNN

About the Author
I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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