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What Happens if You Wear a Torn Contact Lens?

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A young man looking into a mirror while he uses his left hand to put a contact lens in his left eye.

If you’re a contact lens wearer, you’ve probably experienced a tear in your contact lens at some point. Whether it happened from mishandling, overuse, or other factors, it may be tempting to keep wearing the lens, especially if it’s new. However, wearing a torn contact lens can cause problems in your eyes and vision.

Continued wear of a torn contact lens can lead to irritation, corneal abrasions, and a heightened risk of eye infections. If you’re experiencing frequent contact lens tears or unknowingly wearing a torn lens, a comprehensive eye exam with your optometrist can help determine if you’re wearing the best lenses for your eyes.

Can a Torn Contact Lens Harm Your Eyes?

Tearing a new contact lens can be frustrating, but continuing to wear the lens can cause symptoms from mild irritation to severe corneal damage.

Eye Irritation & Discomfort

The first thing that you may experience when wearing a torn contact lens is eye irritation and discomfort. A ripped or torn contact lens can cause your eye to feel scratchy, dry, and irritated. Contact lenses are designed with smooth edges for comfort. When the torn edges are rubbing against your eye’s delicate surface, it can lead to irritation and inflammation.

Risk of Eye Infection

Wearing a torn contact lens increases your risk of developing eye infections. When a contact lens tears, it creates an opening in the lens that allows bacteria and other harmful microorganisms to enter your eye. These harmful pathogens can cause serious infections that, if left untreated, may permanently damage your eyesight. 

Corneal Damage

Another hazard of wearing a torn contact lens is the potential for corneal damage. The cornea is the clear, dome-shaped tissue that covers the front of your eye, and it can be susceptible to damage when there’s a breach in a protective covering, like when wearing a torn contact lens. The rough edge of torn contact lenses can cause corneal abrasions, where foreign materials can enter through the tear and permanently damage the cornea.

Recognizable symptoms of a corneal ulcer can include:

  • Watery eyes
  • Pus-like discharge
  • Red or pink appearance of the eye
  • Inflammation and pain
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Sensitivity to light

Prevention & Precautions

The easiest way to avoid the physical effects of wearing a torn contact lens is by taking preventive measures.

  • Inspect your lenses before inserting them
  • Clean the lenses properly with the “rub and rinse” technique
  • Keep the lenses lubricated with solution when not in your eyes
  • Avoid removing contact lenses when you have dry eyes
  • Don’t handle your contact lenses with your fingernails
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes with your contacts in

Always clean your hands appropriately before removing or inserting your contacts. If a contact lens is ripped or damaged, don’t try to repair it—instead, let your optometrist know and replace it. Additionally, it’s important to schedule regular eye exams to monitor your contact lenses and to ensure they match your prescription.

What to Do if Your Contact Lens Tears

Tearing a contact lens can be a frustrating experience, but in most cases, it’s not a medical emergency. If you have another contact lens, wear it instead of the torn one. And if you don’t have a spare, wear your glasses until you can replace your torn contact lens.

Remove the Torn Lens Immediately

The first thing you need to do is remove the torn lens from your eye as soon as possible. A torn lens can irritate your eye, and you don’t want to leave it in for long.

Rinse Your Eyes

After removing the torn lens, rinse your eye with clean, lukewarm water to remove any debris or particles that may have gotten into your eye from the torn lens.

Contact Your Optometrist

After removing the torn contact lens, contact your optometrist to explain the situation and follow their instructions. Depending on how long you’ve been wearing a torn lens, your optometrist may recommend scheduling a visit to check your eyes.

Replace Your Contact Lenses

While it may seem wasteful to replace a torn lens, continuing to wear it may cause further irritation and lead to more severe eye problems. It’s important to only wear undamaged contact lenses.

A man sitting in an optometrist's office and looking into a machine that tests his vision

Find the Right Contact Lenses for You

A torn contact lens can be an uncomfortable experience, but there’s no need to panic. If you’re experiencing frequent tearing, schedule an appointment with the team at Total Vision La Mesa for an updated contact lens exam. We can determine whether you’re wearing properly fitted contact lenses and offer helpful tips for contact lens care.

Proper care and maintenance are key to safe and healthy contact lens wear. Follow your optometrist’s instructions, and if you experience any discomfort or redness in your eyes, seek comprehensive care to help maintain your eye health.

Written by Total Vision

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