Like any medication, contact lenses and contact lens solutions have expiration dates. The expiration date listed on a box of contact lenses is normally 1-5 years from the manufacturing date of the lenses.
Why you shouldn’t use expired contact lenses and expired contact lens solution
If you wear contact lenses, make sure you discard contact lenses or bottles of contact lens solution once they expire. Wearing expired contact lenses or using expired contact lens solutions can lead to eye infections, corneal ulcers, and other serious eye conditions.
Even though contact lenses are sealed in airtight containers, these seals can degrade over time. This degradation results in the contamination of the saline solution and contact lenses inside the container.
Eye care professionals (ECPs) will never recommend using contact lenses past their expiration date because the safety and efficacy of the contact lenses can no longer be guaranteed. Some ECPs even recommend discarding contact lenses a few weeks before the expiration date printed on the box, though this practice is not supported by the manufacturers.
Expired contact lens solutions should never be used. Discard them immediately. It’s also important to note, contact lenses have an ‘unopened’ expiration date. Just like ketchup or mayo, once the seal is broken the clock starts ticking. The usual usable like span is 3 months, but read the package instructions to be sure. Most contact lens bottles provide a spot for you to record the date you opened the bottle, to help you remember.
Understanding contact lens expiration dates
The expiration date printed on a box of contact lenses is the shelf life of the contact lenses from the time they were manufactured.
Contact lenses today are individually packaged in small, flat containers and sealed with a foil cover. Each contact lens container contains a non-preservative saline solution and a wetting agent. The solution and the wetting agent maintain the hydration of the contact lenses until you open the containers and insert the lenses into your eyes.
You can find the expiration date printed on the foil cover of each contact lens. The expiration date is usually printed in the following formats:
For example, an expiration date of 2024/03 means that you can wear the contact lens until March 31, 2024. Even if there is no specific day listed, you can safely use the contact lens until the last day of the month printed.
Wearing contact lenses past their replacement schedule
You can also suffer from infections when you wear contact lenses past their recommended replacement schedule, whether they’re daily disposable contact lenses, bi-weekly contact lenses, or monthly contact lenses.
It might be tempting to continue wearing your contact lenses past their recommended replacement schedule, but doing so increases the likelihood of harmful bacteria building up on your lenses. This may happen even if you disinfect your contact lenses every night.
You may think that it’s convenient and cost-effective to wear contact lenses past their replacement schedule, but it isn’t. You’ll only spend more money on treatments if your eyes get infected.
You use your eyes every day, so take care of them. Listen to your ECP and follow their recommended replacement schedule. Always discard your contact lenses at the appropriate time and then wear fresh ones.
What you can do with expired contact lenses
The simplest thing to do with expired contact lenses or expired bottles of contact lens solution is to discard them.
Contact lenses have an expiration date that is normally 1-5 years from their manufacturing date. You can find the expiration date on the foil cover of the contact lens, and it’s usually printed as YYYY/MM or YYYY-MM-DD. If the expiration date printed on the cover is 2024/03, that means you can safely use the contact lens until March 31, 2024.
For the health of your eyes, it’s crucial that you discard contact lenses and bottles of contact lens solution as soon as they’ve reached their expiration date. Wearing expired contact lenses or using an expired bottle of contact lens solution can cause eye infections, corneal ulcers, and other serious eye issues.
Keep in mind that there is also a risk of infection when you wear unexpired contact lenses past their recommended replacement schedule. Whether you wear dailies, bi-weeklies, or monthlies, always follow your eye care provider’s recommended replacement schedule for your contact lenses. By doing so, you’ll significantly reduce the chances of getting eye infections and other serious eye conditions.
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