Your contact lenses are meant to mold to your eyes as seamlessly as possible, so it’s a little jarring when they suddenly make a break for it. Worse still: when your lenses pop out as you’re trying to drive, in a meeting with your boss, or pretty much anywhere that isn’t your bathroom. Why does this happen, and how can you make your contacts more likely to stay put? We talked to eye doctors for details.
Your contact lenses can fall out for a variety of reasons, including improper fit and rubbing your eyes too vigorously.
For the record, your contacts should stay in place until you remove them on your own. “It’s not normal for contacts to fall out,” Alisha Fleming, O.D., an optometrist at Penn Medicine, tells SELF. But sometimes your contacts laugh in the face of common decency and do it anyway.
The first major reason your contacts might pop out comes down to poor fit. Before your doctor prescribes your contacts for the first time or updates your prescription, they’ll need to do an exam to make sure the lenses are the right size and shape for your corneas (the transparent, clear domes that cover your eyes), Nicky Lai, O.D., associate professor of clinical optometry at The Ohio State University, tells SELF. The exam is also supposed to ensure that your contacts aren’t made of a material that feels irritating (or even just too noticeable), and, of course, that they help you to see better. “Only when these criteria are met [can] the lenses be prescribed and dispensed,” Dr. Lai says.
Your prescription will typically expire every year, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA). That’s not a ton of time, which is the entire point. Eye doctors want to make sure you’re not running around using contacts that are no longer right for you. But if you’re not seeing your eye doctor as often as you should, it’s possible that your contacts won’t fit as well anymore, Dr. Fleming says, so they can start popping right out of your eyes.
Even if your contacts are exactly the right fit, rubbing your eyes too much can make them come out, Dr. Fleming adds. So can putting them into your eyes the wrong way to start with. To avoid inserting your contacts inside out, balance each one on your finger for a quick look before you put it in. “When the lens is the right way, it looks like a bowl where the edges are straight up,” Vivian Shibayama, O.D., an optometrist and contact lens specialist with UCLA Health, tells SELF. “When it is inside out, the lens looks more like a saucer where the edges flare out.” You can also try what Dr. Shibayama calls “the taco test”: “If you fold your lens in half, it will fold nicely like a taco if it is the right way. If it is the wrong way, the edges will flare out and not fold.” Who knew tacos could be delicious and educational?
Having dry eye can also make your contacts more likely to go rogue.
Dry eye is a condition that can strike when your eyes aren’t making enough of a high-quality, moisturizing tear film or when something is making that film evaporate out too quickly, the National Eye Institute (NEI) explains. This can cause a host of symptoms that range from annoying to painful, like dryness, scratchiness, feeling like something is constantly in your eye, pain, and redness, the NEI says.
In addition to keeping your eyes all lubed up, your tear film helps your contacts stay where they should, remain hydrated, and feel comfortable, Dr. Shibayama says. So, when your eyes are dry, your lenses are more likely to act up—and that includes popping out.
If one (or both) of your contacts falls out, don’t just slip it back in. Doing so can compromise your eye health.
For starters, the odds are high that your hands won’t be perfectly clean when your contact lens falls out. It’s hugely important to have clean hands when you’re handling your contacts, the AOA says. Otherwise, you can transmit bacteria, viruses, and other potential infection-causing pathogens from your fingers directly into your eyes.
Then there’s the fact that you’re probably not going to actually catch your contact when it comes out (although props if you do!). “If your contact lens pops out and hits the ground (or other icky surfaces), the lens should be fully disinfected before re-inserting,” Dr. Shibayama says. FYI, that doesn’t mean rinsing your contacts with tap water or licking them and sticking them back in—both moves can open you up to possible infection, the AOA says.
Instead, if you have fresh contacts or a pair of glasses, go ahead and use those. If not, at the very least, you should inspect the lens for any rips or debris, then clean it with solution, Dr. Lai says. The AOA recommends squirting on some solution, then rubbing the lens gently for however long the solution manufacturer recommends (usually up to 20 seconds), as this will help clean the contact. Then you can rinse it with more solution. In a perfect world, you’d go beyond that and disinfect the contact by putting it in solution for as many hours as the solution manufacturer recommends, Dr. Shibayama says. (This is usually around four to eight hours.) That’s especially important if your contact fell someplace pretty gnarly, like in the dirt or on the bathroom floor. (But seriously, if that happens, just trash the lens if you can.)
If your contacts keep falling out, see your eye doctor and get to the bottom of why.
Sure, if it only happened once, maybe you just put your contact inside out that day. But if your lenses regularly topple out of your eyes, you need to make an appointment with your doctor.
Your doctor will likely evaluate the fit of your lenses first to make sure your current prescription is the best one for you, Dr. Lai says. It could be that you need contacts that conform to the shape of your eyes better or are made of a different material, he says.
If your doctor determines that dry eye is behind your contacts issue, they’ll advise you on how to treat the condition, like by using moisturizing eye drops. They may even be able to recommend contacts that are better suited for people with dry eye, Dr. Shibayama says. Usually, that means they’ll want you to try daily disposable lenses that are designed to boost hydration, she says. Your doctor should be able to offer specific recommendations based on your needs.
Seriously, don’t let it slide if your contacts are regularly coming out. In Dr. Fleming’s experience, many patients only mention that this happens to them after their eye doctor notices that something is off with the way their contacts fit. For the sake of your eyes, don’t hesitate to bring this up of your own volition.