Can You Wear Torn or Ripped Contact Lenses?

by Todd Childs

Torn contact lenses are frustrating. Not only are they uncomfortable on your eyes but they can also cause harm. But don’t be so hard on yourself. Tearing a contact lens happens to most wearers sooner or later.

Torn contact lenses are fairly common, especially among people who are new to wearing. You handle your contacts every day, so expect accidents to happen as you learn what to do and what not to do. Contact lenses are more likely to tear as they get older and overworn, which is why it’s so important to replace your lenses according to manufacturer and your doctor’s recommendations.

Some contact lens materials and designs are more prone to tearing than others, so if you are having issues with frequent lens tears, you should talk to an eye doctor.

Is it safe to wear a torn or ripped contact lens?

It is NEVER safe to wear a torn contact lens, even if it feels fine in your eye. A torn lens will have jagged edges that can scratch the delicate front surface of your eye, called the cornea. When a lens is torn, it can no longer maintain the specific curvature that it needs to match the front of your eye, so it will not fit your eye properly. If the lens does not stay centered on your eye or moves too much, your vision can be blurred. A decentered lens can also get trapped underneath your eyelid and can be difficult to remove.

What should I do if my lens tears or rips?

Before putting a contact lens into your eye, you should always put it on the end of your finger with all the edges up and inspect it for any tears, chips in the edge, cracks or rips. If you see any of these, just throw away the lens and start with a new one. And did we mention that you should NEVER put a torn lens into your eye?

If your contact lens tears after you have put it in your eye, carefully take it out and throw it away. This is one good reason to always keep an extra backup lens handy.

What if a piece of the lens gets stuck in my eye?

If you remove a torn lens and a piece of it stays in your eye, it can be hard to get out the small piece. Try to find the piece of torn lens and try to slide it to the outside corner of your eye with your finger. If you can drag it to the corner, you may be able to pull it out. If you can’t locate a part of the lens or if you find it but can’t remove it, see your eye doctor as soon as you can. Your eye doctor will be able to find the piece of lens with a microscope and by putting special colored dyes in your eye so that the piece can be removed.

Tips for preventing and dealing with torn or ripped contact lenses:

  • Don’t pinch a contact lens tightly in the center. This can cause the lens to crack and tear in the center.
  • Keep your fingernails trimmed (especially when you’re learning how to handle contacts) and never use fingernails to remove a contact lens from your eye.
  • When you take out your lenses and put them in the case, be sure they are floating completely covered in solution before closing the case. If a lens is folded over the edge of the case, you can create a chip in the lens edge when you screw on the cap.
  • Inspect your contact lenses carefully each time you put them into your eye. And we beg of you, never put a torn or ripped lens in your eye.
  • Don’t stretch your contacts. Replace contact lenses as recommended by the lens manufacturer and your eye doctor. Contact lenses that are older than they should be are much more likely to tear and cause eye infections.
  • Don’t try to save a lens that has dried out from not being soaked in solution. Contact lenses never fully rehydrate once they have dried out.
  • Remove a torn contact lens from your eye immediately even if it does not feel uncomfortable. If you can’t remove any part of the lens from your eye, get to your eye doctor as soon as possible to have it removed.
  • Always keep extra contact lenses available at home, at school or at work and when traveling so that you won’t be stuck without contacts if you experience a torn lens.

Updated Oct 18th, 2017

Clay Mattson thumbnailTodd Childs, O.D. has been practicing optometry for the past twelve years. He currently practices at South Valley Optical in Draper, Utah. Dr. Childs earned his Doctor of Optometry at Southern California College of Optometry.

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