Doctors who were preparing a 67-year-old woman for routine cataract surgery recently were in for quite a surprise when they discovered the actual cause of her vision problems – a congealed mass of disposable contact lenses that she had reportedly been wearing for decades.
According to NPR and BBC News, surgeons at Solihull Hospital in England were prepping the patient for surgery by injecting anesthesia into her eye when they found “a bluish foreign body” that turned out to be a “hard mass” of 17 contact lenses clumped together with mucus.
Upon further investigation, they found 10 additional lenses, and as the doctors explained in the latest edition of the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the woman later told them that she had been wearing disposable contacts for some 35 years. Although the patient never complained of any irritation, she told doctors that she felt much better once the lenses were removed.
Even though some of the doctors on the operating team had more than 20 years of experience, none of them had ever seen anything like this before, specialist trainee ophthalmologist Rupal Morjaria told Optometry Today. “It was such a large mass…We were really surprised that the patient didn’t notice it because it would cause quite a lot of irritation while it was sitting there.”
“[The patient] was quite shocked,” Morjaria added. The surgery, which was scheduled to take place in November, was delayed for two weeks – after which time, the woman told her doctors that she felt much better. “She thought her previous discomfort was just part of old age and dry eye,” Morjaria noted.
How did it happen, and how can you prevent it from happening to you?
Doctors told Optometry Today that they published the case study in part to raise awareness of proper and improper contact lens practices, and in part because they had previously thought that a patient could not wear so many lenses at one time without experiencing obvious discomfort.
“In this day and age, when it is so easy to purchase contact lenses online, people become lax about having regular check-ups,” Morjaria said. “Contact lenses are used all the time, but if they are not appropriately monitored we see people with serious eye infections that can cause them to lose their sight.”
“Patients do sometimes present with a contact lens stuck under their upper eyelid, particularly if they are new to contact lens wear, or have problems with dexterity, but finding this many lenses stuck in someone’s eye is exceedingly rare,” added Henry Leonard, a clinical and regulatory officer with the UK’s Association of Optometrists. “Most patients would experience significant discomfort and redness, and be at risk of eye infections.”
In this particular patient’s case, the case study said that she reported having poorer vision in her right eye and deep-set which, which the authors believe could have played a role in the contacts getting lost. Lenses often get temporarily lost in an individual’s eye, Association of Optometrists spokeswoman Ceri Smith-Jaynes told BBC News, but in most cases, they work their way out.
“They are normally hiding, folded up under the top lid of the eye. They can’t go any further up than that because there is a pocket,” Smith-Jaynes explained. “It’s the same under the bottom lid – the lens can only be in one of those places.” She stressed the importance of seeing an optician or optometrist regularly to prevent any such issues while wearing contact lenses.
Image credit: BMJ