Removing Your Scleral Contact Lenses

7:00 AM

A larger scleral lens (left)  can be intimidating if you have worn traditional corneal RGPs (right) via
Scleral and mini-scleral lenses are the fastest growing type of rigid gas permeable contact lenses on the market--utilized for corneal degenerations or even normal eyes with higher astigmatism or those wanting better comfort or stability in their current contact lenses.  Insertion and removal are one of the biggest differences between using the larger scleral lenses versus the typical RGP.  Check out this post for insertion techniques.  Today we break down the easiest removal methods, and troubleshooting difficulties when you try to break that suction between your eye and the contact lens at night.

Because scleral lenses are larger (typically 14.5mm or bigger in diameter), it is next to impossible to remove these without using a plunger.  Your doctor will typically provide these for you with your lenses, but you can also buy them in bulk on Amazon.   With smaller diameter lenses, you may be able to get your eyelids on either side of the lens and perform a pop-out removal method that you would use with typical RGPs, but for most patients the lens will be just too large to get your eyelids comfortably positioned on either side.

Tips for Success:
  • Never Remove the Lens from the Center
    It's tempting to want to aim for the center, but don't!  The best way to
    apply your plunger is to aim for the bottom of the lens, around 6:00 via

    If you apply your plunger's suction right in the center of the lens, you will be trying to remove the lens at it's point of highest suction to your eye. You may literally feel like you may pull your eye out of the socket when you do it this way, and you may even experience a popping sensation when you finally break the suction between the lens and your eye.  Not only is this uncomfortable, but it can be very painful and leave your eye red and irritated for days.  To prevent this excess suction, apply your plunger just below the center of the lens, around 6:00 if you imagine your lens like a clock.

  • Create the necessary tilt before you try to pull the lens out
    After your apply your plunger, make sure that you push in towards the eye and move the plunger slightly upwards as you bring the lens out.  Shifting the lens upward before you pull outward helps to break more of the suction between your eye and the lens. It also helps you to clear your bottom eyelid and will help tilt your lens into the proper position to better clear your top eyelid upon removal.

  • Still feeling too much resistance?
    Remove the plunger and try to break more suction manually.  A properly fit contact lens will be able to move a bit with manual handling, even though it is a large contact lens that doesn't move up and down as you blink.  Look up towards the ceiling and with your bottom eyelid try to move the lens up and down just slightly.  Basically you are wiggling the lens.  You can look down and repeat this with your top eyelid. Now reapply your plunger and try again.  The lens should come out easier this time because you just increased the flow of tear film underneath the lens and may have even introduced an air bubble or two that help to limit suction.  
If your lens won't come out, don't panic.  The best thing to do is to take a break and try to work with manually moving your lens up and down for a few minutes instead of pulling excessively with the plunger.  The more you pull on a suctioned lens from the center, the more it will resist.  After you've had a few minutes of manipulating the lens under your eyelid, try again and make sure you aim low with your plunger application.  It's ok to be close to the bottom of the lens.  Most people have much better success if they aim closer to the bottom than if they aim closer to the center at relieving suction!

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  1. I have some very hard times with my sclera contacts in the past. The first time I gave them a try I had to call the doctor on call and she even had a very hard time getting them out of my eye. My new eye doctor convinced me to give it another try. I was scared and reluctant to do so but today I can now say I’m glad he talked me into it. I have experimented with so many ways to try and make it more comfortable to get them out. So this is what worked best for me so far. I use a bottle of Systane gel eye drops and I put three drop into each eye. I then set the timer for five minutes. Timing has been key for me. Then I put two more drops in and wait about 10 seconds and then wipe the outside of my eye off with a towel and make sure my hands our dry as well. Then I do the regular method of taking them out. Only difference is that now they come tight out. I have tried putting drops in my eyes an hour ahead of time and many times in between, but the method and time I said works the best. If this helps just one person that would make my day! Good Luck!

    1. Thanks for the advice. I just recently got my third scleral lens after several tries to get it correct. I installed it yesterday at the doctor's office for and a half hours later I was able to take it out very easily. This morning after installing the lens I discovered that there was an air bubble, and discovered that I was having some visual Clarity issues due to that. And attempting to take it out with a larger plunger I spent 30 minutes trying to get this thing out and it would not release the suction. Your system of doing this makes a lot of sense to me and definitely interested in trying thank you for all the help and for this article it is a great thing for those of us who struggling with this especially being a new user. Again thank you and will let you know how I make out

  2. "Not only is this uncomfortable, but it can be very painful and leave your eye red and irritated for days. "
    Doh! That was me.
    Hopefully this was the issue and with better removal my eyes will not be so swollen that night and into the next day. Thanks!