UK doctors removed 27 contact lenses from behind a patient’s eye, according to an incident paper.

The woman, 67, was scheduled for routine cataract surgery at the Solihull Hospital in the United Kingdom. She’d recently complained of dry eyes and discomfort, but she apparently didn’t know about the “blue mass” of contacts behind in her eye.

Rupal Morjaria, a specialist trainee in ophthalmology, described the strange case in a paper published in the British Medical Journal.

“None of us have ever seen this before,” Morjaria told Optometry Today. “It was such a large mass. All the 17 contact lenses were stuck together.” 

The medical team later discovered an additional 10 lenses in the same eye.

“We were really surprised that the patient didn’t notice it because it would cause quite a lot of irritation while it was sitting there,” Morjaria said. “She was quite shocked. She thought her previous discomfort was just part of old age and dry eye.”

While stuck contacts aren’t uncommon, most patients are aware when their lenses become stuck. Doctors aren’t sure how the woman didn’t notice the mass.

The team decided to postpone the cataract surgery since the large clump of contacts greatly increased the chances of endophthalmitis (inflammation of the inner eye). The contact lenses likely contained bacteria that could trigger this inflammation, preventing the woman from healing properly after her surgery. If they would have operated, the patient might have suffered permanent vision loss.

According to the original case report, the woman had worn monthly disposable contact lenses for 35 years. However, she hadn’t visited her ophthalmologist regularly, and she’d gradually lost more and more contacts in her eye.

Fortunately, the contact lenses didn’t seem to cause any permanent issues.

Stuck lenses aren’t always so benign, and contact lens wearers can easily damage their eyes when trying to remove them. As Dr. Jennifer Shu wrote for CNN, people who wear contacts frequently deal with this issue, and the best way to remove the contact is to remain patient.

“First, you can rest assured that all the sides of your eyes are ‘dead ends’ and there is no way the contact lens can be lost behind the eye,” Shu wrote, even though it seemed to happen to the unlucky patient we talked about earlier.

Applying lubrication can help, so apply eye rewetting drops and wait a few minutes before making an attempt.

“The traditional technique of taking out contacts involves moving the lens to the outer, lower corner of the eye and then using the thumb and forefinger to pinch it out,” Shu writes. “Another method is to put one finger on your upper eyelid in the spot where you feel the top of the lens and the thumb on the lower eyelid over the bottom corner of the lens. Apply gentle pressure to the lids while trying to blink the contact out onto a clean towel.”

If these tactics aren’t successful, remain calm and call your ophthalmologist. If you’re in pain, visit an urgent care or emergency care facility for an evaluation.