A painful lump just above a 42-year-old woman’s left eye was actually a hard contact lens the woman was sure she’d simply lost — almost three decades earlier.
That’s according to a case study published Aug. 10 in the British Medical Journal. The study tells the “unexpected” story of how a 14-year-girl’s lost contact lens stayed stuck in her eye for 28 years.
According to the study, the woman went to doctor’s office six months previously with a pea-sized lump above her left eye, which swelled larger and became painful to the touch over time. The doctor referred her to experts.
The mass was not in her physical eye nor in her eyebrow, but in the soft space between the two. The patient had some minor drooping of the eyelid, called ptosis, but told doctors she’d had it for some time and it had never bothered her, according to the study.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Doctors performed an MRI on her head to see what was causing the lump. They found what looked like a small cyst and decided to do a small surgery and remove it.
When they did, the cyst broke apart — and they found something they never expected.
Inside the cyst was a hard, extremely brittle contact lens, which cracked and degraded as doctors extracted it from the woman’s eye. The rest of her injury looked like what doctors would expect when a foreign body gets stuck in body tissue, according to the study.
The woman didn’t remember how the contact lens had gotten there. But her mother had an idea, according to the study.
When the patient was 14 years old, she had been playing badminton and was struck in the face with a shuttlecock. One of her contact lenses had gone missing, and they had all assumed it had fallen to the ground and was lost, the mother told the doctors, according the study.
The patient was treated by her doctor, and her eye swelling came down, but she never found the lens and never wore them again after the incident, according to the study. The doctors concluded that it was the same contact lens, and it had remained stuck in her eye for nearly three decades.
The doctors said there was still “an element of mystery” to what caused the lens to become inflamed now, so many years later.
It’s not the first time an incident like this has happened. In a 2016 case study, doctors removed a contact lens from a woman’s eye who had been kicked in the face by her child. She had thought the contact lens she was wearing was lost . In fact, it had been stuck in her eye for seven months.
In another case, also reported by the British Medical Journal, a woman went in to have cataract surgery and was surprised when doctors removed 27 contact lenses from her eye, as reported by McClatchy’s Greg Hadley reported in 2017. She had attributed her discomfort to old age.