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What Happens If I Put My Contact Lens Inside Out?

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A young woman against a blue backdrop experiencing discomfort and pain in one eye from an inside out contact lens.

Whether you’re new to wearing contact lenses or have been wearing them for years, there’s a certain type of panic that you can feel when your lenses don’t feel quite right on your eye. Fortunately, accidentally putting your contact lens on inside out is very common and won’t damage your eye or the lens; you’ll simply feel some discomfort and irritation in that eye. 

Taking the lens out, correcting it, and putting it back it will solve the discomfort (though the lens is also more likely to fall out if not corrected anyway). If you’re worried about the fit, a comprehensive eye exam with your optometrist can include taking measurements of your eyes to find the best contact lenses to fit your eyes.

How To Tell Your Contact Lenses Are Inside Out

Typically, you’ll be able to tell within moments of putting your contact in that something is amiss. Your contact lens may be inside out if you notice any discomfort, grittiness, if your eyes start watering, if your contacts pop right back out, or if it feels like the lens is moving around.

However, if you have dry eyes, it can be hard to distinguish this discomfort. Depending on your prescription and vision needs, an inside out lens can also cause blurry vision and distorted images because it won’t sit properly on your cornea. If you notice either of those, take your contact lenses out and try again.

Contact Lens Testing Methods

Even with this discomfort, it’s possible you may not notice an inside out lens until hours later. Thankfully, there are a few simple tests you can do to determine if your lenses are inside out before you even put them on, including:

  • The Side View Test: Place your contact lens on your finger (open edge pointing up) and look at it from the side. A proper lens will look like a perfect cup, with the edge pointing to the sky. An inside out contact lens will have a slight curve at the edge similar to a rimmed bowl.
  • The Taco Test: Place your contact lens between your index finger and thumb (near the centre) and gently squeeze the lens. A proper lens will point upwards (like a taco) but an inside out lens will bend out towards your thumb and index finger.
  • The Edge Tint Test: Only some brands tint the inside edge of their contacts, but if they do, you can notice a blue or green ring around the edge of your contact. Place your contact lens on your finger (similar to the side view test). If the edge color is vibrant and clear, then your lens is good to go; but if the color is pale, then it’s inside out.
  • The Marking Test: Other contact brands, instead of coloring the edges, have laser markings (such as “123”) along the edge of the lens. By holding the lens up to a bright light, you can see the numbers. If they’re in the correct order, your lenses are fine; but if they’re backwards, then your contact is inside out.
Side view of a young girl practicing putting on contact lenses. She holds her eyelid with a contact lens in the other hand.

How to Put In Contact Lenses

Preventing yourself from putting your contact lenses in inside out in the first place can be simpler than fixing a rotated lens. Following the eye care routine recommended by your optometrist and making it into a routine can help reduce the chances for confusion – especially if you can make mind-body connections to the process by using the same hand for each eye every time.

  1. Wash your hands with unscented soap
  2. Shake your contact lens container to loosen contacts, then slide the lens into your hand
  3. Rinse the lens with contact lens solution
  4. Place the contact lens on the index or middle finger of your dominant hand (whichever is more comfortable)
  5. Hold your upper eyelid open with your other hand and your lower eyelid with your the fingers of your dominant hand not holding the contact (Or, alternatively, hold both eyelids open wide with your nondominant hand)
  6. Place the lens on your eye
  7. Close your eyes slowly and roll them in a circle to settle the lens in place

If you’re new to wearing contact lenses, it can take some time to get used to this routine. For the first while it can be helpful to always put the first contact in the same either (doesn’t matter which one) to help prevent accidentally mixing up the left and right contacts.

It can also be helpful to keep your fingernails short, your eyes moist and healthy (using eyedrops as recommended), and drink lots of water to stay hydrated. 

Remember that you can’t lose a contact lens in the back of your eye! So it’s okay if you make mistakes while learning how to use your contact lenses.

How to Take Care Of Your Contact Lenses

Keeping your contact lenses in good condition will not only benefit your eyes, but help you figure out easier if they’re inside out. 

There are many types of cleaning systems available for contact lenses, and can vary depending on the type of lens you have, any allergies you have, or if your eyes forms protein deposits. Your optometrist can advise you on the best cleaning solution for your contacts (especially if you buy from your optometrist).

Further than the specific needs of your contact lenses, some general advice to keep in mind includes:

  • Avoid activities where water can get in your eyes while wearing contacts (showering, swimming, surfing, etc.)
  • Remove your contact lenses before sleeping
  • Only use the proper contact lens solution to clean and store your contact lenses
  • Keep your contact lens case clean & replace every 3 months

Finding the Right Contacts For You

There are daily disposable lenses, weekly lenses, monthly or extended-wear lenses, and soft or rigid lenses. Choosing one depends on your needs and lifestyle, but can take a couple trials to find the right pair.

Your optometrist can conduct a contact lens exam for you, which includes a comprehensive eye exam and vision prescription. At Fort Myers Eye Associates, we use the Marco OPD and refraction system to measure your prescription in a quick, non-invasive way. Using this method allows us to better find contacts that fit your eyes.

Contact us today to make an appointment for a contact lens exam and fitting to get started wearing contact lenses properly with pride.

Written by Dr. David Dalesio

Dr. David Dalesio is an optometrist who has been practicing for over 30 years. He has a doctorate from the New England College of Optometry (Beta Sigma Kappa Optometry Honor Fraternity) and a BA (psychology-biology double major) from the State University of New York at Oswego.

Dr. Dalesio holds a Fellowship in the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (FCOVD) and is renowned in Southwest Florida for his extensive experience in developmental optometry, diagnosing and treating children and adolescents with vision issues. He has been practicing vision therapy for learning-related vision issues for over 20 years.

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