The Grapevine

Woman's Eyelid Had Contact Lens Inside That She 'Lost' 28 Years Ago

Nearly three decades after a woman lost one of her contact lenses, doctors from the United Kingdom were able to retrieve it during a surgical procedure. Wrongly believed to have fallen out, it was discovered the lens had been stuck in her eye the whole time without her realizing.

The report titled "Unexpected cause for eyelid swelling and ptosis: rigid gas permeable contact lens migration following a 28-year-old trauma" was published in the journal BMJ Case Reports on Aug. 10.

The authors detailed the case of a British woman, 42, who decided to see an eye doctor and find out why her left eye was swollen and aching. Though her left eye had always drooped slightly, the aforementioned symptoms had only begun occurring recently. 

Doctors performed an MRI scan and noticed a pea-sized lump situated under her left eyebrow, which seemed to have grown over a six-month period. The only way to remove the lump was through surgery — but during this procedure, surgeons found a contact lens preserved inside the tissue.

The mother of the patient recalled an incident which had occurred 28 years ago, now believed to have been the cause of the problem. The patient, who was 14 years old at the time, was enjoying a game of badminton before being hit in the eye with a birdie.

She was unable to find her contact lens after, leading to the assumption that it may have been knocked out of her eye during the injury. This seemed reasonable as she was wearing a specific type known as a rigid gas-permeable (RGP) lens.

Unlike the soft contact lenses which are the most commonly used today, RGP lenses can initially be uncomfortable for the wearer and are more prone to dislodging from the eye during activities like sports.

After this incident, the patient did not wear RGP lenses ever again, according to Dr. Sirjhun Patel and his colleagues from the department of ophthalmology at the University of Dundee, Scotland.

"We can infer that the RGP lens migrated into the patient’s left upper eyelid at the time of trauma and had been in situ for the last 28 years," the authors wrote in the report.

While the patient has recovered since the surgical procedure, it is not known why she could not feel the sensation of the lens trapped in her eye for so long. Experts believe this is extremely rare as our eyes are designed to prevent such foreign objects from being unknowingly trapped.

In a similar case study published this year, an Australian woman discovered fragments of mascara were embedded in her eyelids, which had led to swelling and discomfort over time. This was believed to have occurred due to her long-term habit of going to sleep without removing her eye makeup.