'Like a stack of pancakes': Doctor removes 23 contact lenses from patient's eye

"Those contact lenses were able to hide like a stack of pancakes really far deep inside in the least sensitive part of the eye."

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Wednesday, October 19, 2022
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WARNING: The images in the video player above can be disturbing to some.

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. -- It's a story that will either make you cringe or have you speechless. A doctor recently removed 23 contact lenses from a woman's eye.

We do want to warn you - the images in the video player above can be disturbing to some.

Dr. Katerina Kurteeva is an ophthalmologist with California Eye Associates.

She said her patient came in complaining of pain and blurriness. Turns out, she had been forgetting to remove her contacts every day.

The result? Twenty-three contacts lenses became lodged in her eye - specifically, under her eyelid.

A photo, posted on California Eye Associates' Instagram, taken immediately after the procedure shows a pile of lenses that were taken out of the patient's eye. Video of the procedure, which was also posted on Instagram, has since gone viral - garnering 3.2 million views since it was posted on Sept. 13.

"I had to use very fine surgical instrument -- a jeweler forceps -- to separate contact lenses. They were essentially glued together after sitting under the eyelid for a month," Kurteeva said in the caption of one Instagram post.

Kurteeva spoke to ABC7 about the procedure.

She said her patient is doing just fine now and is back to her everyday routine. She even wants to continue wearing contact lenses moving forward.

How did this happen? Kurteeva said even the patient herself doesn't understand how she could have forgotten to take her lenses out so many days in a row.

But the doctor did explain - that as you wear contacts for many years, for example over the span of 20 to 30 years, your cornea becomes desensitized.

"This is essentially a protective feature, because otherwise you'd be really bothered by everyday contact lens wear. After all, it is a foreign body in your eye," she explained. "So when the cornea loses sensitivity, it's sort of an adjustment, but at the same time, you don't feel when something is really wrong as acutely."

She added that her patient is a senior patient, who was experiencing quite a lot of facial changes, including a loss of ocular fat cushion.

"The pocket of the upper lid becomes really deep. So in that case, all those contact lenses were able to hide like a stack of pancakes really far deep inside in the least sensitive part of the eye," she said.

Some who noticed the green color of the contact lenses may be wondering about the color. Kurteeva had a simple explanation.

"It's pretty routine when I see somebody for an eye exam, we'll put a little stain called fluorescein. It's a helpful tool to identify any foreign body, as well as stain any cornea irregularities to outline any dry eye or infection," she said, adding that fluorescein also has an anesthetic component, which allowed her to painlessly remove the lenses from her patient.

Kurteeva said her patient was very lucky that there was no apparent long-lasting damage.

"It doesn't always end this well. I've been in practice for almost 20 years and I've seen some cases really go south, where people develop vision-threatening infections... from even like a day of overnight contact lens wearing," she said.

Kurteeva said her patient's experience should serve as a cautionary tale. She advised contact lens wearers to not sleep in their lenses, make sure to wash your hands when handling your lenses, avoid swimming in them, and if they wear extended-wear contacts, make sure to switch them out at the recommended time.

One tip she shared is to tie your eye care with your dental care to get into a daily routine.

"As you reach for the toothbrush, get the contacts out, then brush your teeth. In the morning, as you reach for the toothbrush, put the contacts in with artificial tears and then brush your teeth afterward. It's very basic," she said.