Every contact lens user has thought about it at least once — what if this thing gets stuck in my eye? Well, hold on tight.
A 42-year-old woman in the UK managed to go 28 years with a contact lodged in her eye without even noticing, according to a paper published in the journal BMJ Case Reports.
The woman had gone to her doctor with swelling in her upper-left eyelid, as well as mild ptosis — meaning her upper eyelid was drooping. The swelling had started as a pea-sized lump that grew larger and painful to touch.
An MRI scan revealed a lump believed to be a cyst above her left eye, and surgery revealed a neat little surprise inside.
Once the cyst was out, it ruptured and revealed a single, cracked contact lens.
The lens turned out to be a rigid gas permeable (RGP) lens. Unlike the soft contact lenses that are mostly in use these days, RGP lenses are an older type that was first used in the 1960s. They’re harder than modern lenses, which means they can be uncomfortable at first. They’re also more likely to accidentally pop out of the eye.
That’s how doctors figured out the lens had been in the woman’s eye for 28 long years. The last time the patient had worn that type of lens was when she was 14 years old. That’s when she was hit in the eye with a badminton shuttlecock (also known as a birdie). Everyone had assumed the contact lens had simply fallen out, but they were very wrong.
“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,” wrote Dr. Sirjhun Patel, of the department of ophthalmology at the University of Dundee in Dundee, UK, and colleagues.
Incredibly, in all those years, the slight eyelid droop was the only indication that something was amiss until the mass formed.
The paper’s authors still don't know why her eye began to swell when it did, but if it hadn’t, that lens may have never been found.