Almost Losing an Eye:

What it was like getting snapped in the eye with a heavy elastic exercise band, healing, permanent damage and using a narcissus contact lens to correct it.

How it Happened:

While attempting to measure how much force a heavy elastic exercise band produced when used for biceps curls, the band slipped loose and struck me in the right eye. The immediate pain was excruciating and lasted several minutes. After that a severe burning/itching sensation remained for hours. Vision through the eye was extremely blurred with a dark donut-shaped zone blocking one third of it.

I immediately went to my eye doctor, who sent me to a surgeon specializing in eye injuries. Upon inspection he determined that the cornea had been collapsed and the iris damaged to the point where it was bleeding into the space between the cornea and the lens. Fortunately, the cornea appeared intact and would return to normal in time.

He prescribed drops to reduce inflammation, slow the bleeding and decrease the fluid pressure on the cornea to prevent blood cells from becoming permanently imbedded in it.

What followed was a week of sitting upright in a chair virtually all the time in an attempt to hold the eye as still as possible. Once torn, the very delicate iris is prone to rebleeding after the initial bleeding stops. I even had to sleep sitting up. Three rebleeds occurred in spite of this and it was three weeks before the iris has healed. During this period there were days where the pain in the eye was so all-consuming that psychologically I ceased to exist other than as a vessel of the pain. Even high doses of vicodin had no effect on it.

In time this passed and the eye healed. There was, however, some permanent damage.

Three years earlier I'd had LASIC, which improved the vision in that eye to an excellent 20/18. After the accident this was reduced to 20/30, with some astigmatism. While this doesn't sound too bad, because my undamaged left eye remained at it's outstanding 20/14, the contrast between them was extremely annoying. If both eyes were 20/30 there would be no imbalance and in many ways,more comfortable.

Worse still, muscles in the upper left quarter of the iris were permanently torn. The iris can no longer contract, is frozen at 8 millimeters in diameter and off center toward the 10 o'clock quadrant. This wide open iris causes considerable glare during the day and when watching television. I have been told there is nothing that can be done to correct this condition.

The Narcissus Contact Lens Solution:

I reasoned that part of the blurring of the vision through the damaged eye was caused by the offset iris opening causing light to traverse the side of the lens, where optical defects would be at there greatest. Also, the large diameter of the iris was also allowing light to pass through a larger than usual area of the lens, which means more lens imperfections were distorting the image than would occur if the iris was smaller. To correct both problems I thought a contact lens with an opaque iris and small opening would reduce the amount of light coming into the eye, thereby reducing glare while centering the smaller opening which would improve image sharpness.

I discovered that such contact lenses exist and are called narcissus lenses.

Having never worn a contact lens before I was apprehensive, but willing to give it a try for improved vision.

Consulting a contact lens specialist, I discovered that only three companies in the US make these lenses and only one offered a color close to my natural iris. The problem was that the smallest iris opening they offered was 4.5 millimeters. Since the average opening of the other eye was 3 millimeters I doubted that this would be small enough to resolve the glare and poor vision problems, but decided to try it anyway.

The lens took three weeks to arrive and cost $400 plus $200 for the doctor's time. It turns out my health insurance doesn't cover contact lenses unless they are required following surgery. This was not the case so I had to pay for them out of my own pocket.

Front surface..........................inside surface

Narcissus contact lenses are different than regular tinted lenses
in that the iris opening has a sharp border and the colored area
is black and opaque on the inside.

The lens was awkward to put in and even harder to remove, but I assumed that would improve with practice. Once in, I was amazed to discover than it was very difficult to feel the lens at all. It felt a little like having a very small hair in your eye, but so mild that any distraction would render it completely unnoticeable. In time I could easily imagine not being able to notice it all all. Unfortunately, the lens didn't work.

There were three problems. First, the 4.5 millimeter opening was too large to significantly reduce glare. Second, the opening in the contact lens and the opening of my real iris formed a pair of apertures that created a tunnel effect. When looking through the eye there was a soft, dark ring around the outside, similar to below:

Without the narcissus lens.......................With the narcissus lens

Finally, the lens did not improve the sharpness through the damaged eye, I suspect because the diameter of the opening was too large to provide the small-aperture effect.

There was also a problem with the lens blurring my vision through that eye. The doctor said that it was being caused by the lens not sitting flush on the cornea. After wearing it a week the contact lens should reform itself to shape of my eye, lay flat and eliminate the problem.


The narcissus lens did not solve any of the problems I'd hoped it would and actually made things worse. I don't begrudge the $600 because I went into it knowing there was good chance it wouldn't work.

I sincerely hope any visitors to this page found it useful or at least diverting.

Important Notice!

I am not a doctor. Nothing on this page should be interpreted
as medical advice or recommendation for any treatment.


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