It's easy to misplace things, especially as you grow older. Keys. Glasses. Your phone. But one British woman's story takes the cake: She lost 27 contact lenses in her eye socket over a period of years.
According to a short report in the BMJ, a 67-year-old woman came in for routine cataract surgery at a hospital near Birmingham, England, last November. As she was being prepped for the procedure, an anesthesiologist found what the journal describes as a "blueish mass" of 17 contacts fused together by mucus in her right eye. On further examination, doctors discovered another 10 individual lenses. That's 27 in a single eye and, apparently, zero in the left.
The operating team was, understandably, shocked. (And maybe a little horrified?) Not just by the sheer quantity of "retained bodies," but by the fact that the patient had never complained, other than noting reduced vision in that eye. "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," Rupal Morjaria, a specialist trainee ophthalmologist and author of the report, told Optometry Today .
As for how the contacts got there? The patient had worn monthly disposable contacts for the past 35 years, but didn't see an optometrist regularly. She, too, was surprised to learn about the mass of contacts in her eye, though Morjaria noted the woman said she was a lot more comfortable at a follow-up appointment two weeks after the lenses were removed. "She thought her previous discomfort was just part of old age and dry eye." The BMJ report speculated that the disappearing-contact act may have been possible because the woman has deep-set eyes.
After removing the lenses, doctors postponed surgery to avoid complications and gave her antibiotics. "Because she had harboured these contact lenses in her eye for an unknown length of time, if we had operated she would have had a lot of bacteria around her conjunctiva," Morjaria said. The woman has no known complications since the surgery, Morjaria told Tonic in an email.
Morjaria and her colleagues decided to publish the story to show that a patient could have that many contacts in her eye without symptoms like significant discomfort and redness—but also to remind contact-wearers that they need regular, professional eye exams, even if they get their lenses online. "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," she said. As convenient as they are, contacts are still medical devices, and need to be treated as such.