Soft contact lenses may be more comfortable compared to their rigid counterparts, but soft lenses are also more fragile and prone to tearing. Lenses may be more likely to rip or tear if they are removed from a dry eye, or if they are handled aggressively during cleaning or removal. Torn lenses should be removed right away, because they can scratch and irritate the eye. This process is similar to removing an intact contact lens, but requires additional care and precision.
Before you try to remove the lens yourself, take stock of your situation. If you are experiencing a lot of pain or irritation in your eye, or if you aren't confident you can remove the lens yourself, see an eye doctor for removal.
Wash your hands thoroughly, and dry using a lint-free towel.
Seek the assistance of someone who can help you, if possible. Stand or sit in front of a mirror in a well-lit area, so you or your helper can more easily view your eye, and locate the contact lens and any fragments.
Add a few drops of eye lubricating solution or saline solution to the affected eye. This is important in order to moisten your torn lens, to prevent it from sticking to your eye and to make removal easier.
Using one of your fingers, pull your lower eyelid down with one hand. If you can visualize the torn lens, use the thumb and forefinger from your other hand to pinch the contact lens and remove it from your eye. Avoid moving the torn lens around your eye with your finger, as this could scratch your eye.
Examine the torn contact lens after removal, wetting the lens if necessary to unfold it. This step is important to determine if you were able to retrieve the entire lens from your eye.
If any piece of lens remains in your eye, pull up your top eyelid with a finger, then direct your vision down. This will help visualize any remaining piece of the contact lens. Do the same for your lower eyelid, only look upward this time. If you can see the torn lens in your eye, use a clean finger and thumb to gently remove.
If you are not able to remove the torn lens, or if you are unsure you removed all fragments from your eye, see your eye doctor right away. A torn contact lens can cause injury if it stays in your eye.
Things You'll Need
Eye lubricating solution or saline solution
Follow the recommended steps to clean, store and care for your contact lenses, to minimize the risk of eye damage and infection. Always inspect your contact lenses prior to placing them in your eye, and do not place a lens in your eye that has any tears, rips, chips or cracks.
To reduce the risk of eye injury, avoid rubbing your eye if you suspect you have a torn contact lens in place. Also use your fingers, not your fingernails, to remove your contact lenses. Do not use tweezers or any other tool to attempt to remove the torn lens from your eye.
Reviewed by Kay Peck, MPH RD