Although many contact lens wearers probably don’t closely examine the packaging prior to popping in a new pair of lenses, a quick check of the expiration date is an important step for proper eye care. Many wearers might not even know that contact lenses do in fact have an expiration date and should not be worn after that date.
We’ve got your guide to proper contact lens care and best practices.
Why Do Contact Lenses Expire?
Photo credit: Deposit Photos
Contact lenses are classified as a packaged medical device. The lenses are sterilized and packaged in sealed containers prior to distribution to health care providers and consumers. Over time, the seal of contact lenses can lose their effectiveness and deteriorate, which can lead to contamination of the solution and the lenses inside. Contaminated lenses can lead to everything from irritation to infection—or worse. For that reason, all packaged contact lenses will have a printed expiration date. Usually, the expiration date is ~4 years from the date of packaging.
Where Can I Find the Expiration Date?
The expiration date for contact lenses is printed on the individual contact lens container. Specifically, you can find the expiration date on the foil cover. Information that can be found here includes the contact lens brand name, contact lens material, manufacturer name, lens diameter, lens power, the base curve of the lens, lot number, and—most importantly—the expiration date.
Can I Wear Expired Lenses?
Beyond the expiration date posted on the contact lens packaging, manufacturers cannot guarantee that the lenses are safe to wear. Therefore, expired lenses should not be worn. As the packaging ages and deteriorates, the contents of the packaging—the lenses and the saline solution—can become compromised and contaminated. Bacteria, amoebas, and fungi are just a few of the outside intruders that could work their way into your expired contact lens packaging. What’s the worst that could happen? Well, contaminated lenses could lead to a myriad of eye health problems, some of which can have serious complications, like blindness. Wearing expired contacts is simply not worth the risk!
What Are the Symptoms of an Eye Infection?
Photo Credit: singmeasmile via Flickr CC2.0Though rare, symptoms of an eye infection or other issue caused by contaminated or expired contact lenses can include:
- Blurry vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Extra tears
- Gooey eye buildup
- Eye pain
If you think you have an eye problem or infection of any kind, seek medical assistance from your eye care professional immediately.
What Should I Do With Expired Lenses?
The best way to dispose of expired contact lenses is to throw them away in a trash bag. Do not flush contacts or wash them down a drain. If contacts are flushed and not properly filtered out of sewage water, they end up in local streams and rivers, harming wildlife. If you’re looking for a more environmentally-friendly alternative, consider wearing glasses more often. Or, consider corrective eye surgery to eliminate the need for contacts altogether!
Remember that your contact lens prescription will, in most cases, expire after one year. An annual eye exam is required to make sure your prescription is up to date and adjusted for any natural changes with your vision or eye health. So, resist the urge to crack open that box of forgotten contacts in the back of your cabinet and, instead, make sure your contacts are up to date and match your latest prescription.
Need a contact prescription refresh? If you’re in the Atlanta area, contact us today to schedule your consultation.
Is there an expiration date on contact lens prescription? ›
Generally, contact lens prescriptions are valid from 1 to 2 years following the date of your last eye exam and contact lens fitting.Do unopened contact lenses really expire? ›
Eye care professionals urge individuals to use contacts before they expire. Even unopened contacts can go bad when it's past their expiration date. Contact lenses are packed in a solution that acts as a preservative, but over time, the solution also expires.How do you check if contact lenses are expired? ›
The expiration date for contact lenses is printed on the individual contact lens container. Specifically, you can find the expiration date on the foil cover.What happens if you wear an old contact prescription? ›
Wearing the wrong prescription is very unlikely to cause any temporary or permanent damage to the eyes. It can, however, cause symptoms which are called asthenopia and include blurry vision, headache, nausea, eye pain, brow ache and others. These symptoms should resolve when you get your correct prescription.How long is a contact lens valid for? ›
Contact lens prescriptions are generally valid for up to 2 years, meaning you can buy the contact lenses your prescription states for this duration.How long do unused contact lenses last? ›
The expiration date of the lenses depends on the manufacture date, and these dates tend to be far in advance, typically around five or six years away.Are 1 year contact lenses safe? ›
You can wear them and dispose of them without worrying about storing them safely in a case. While both monthly and yearly disposable contact lenses are suitable for daily use, they require more care and regular cleaning.How do you store unopened contact lenses? ›
Generally, unopened contact lenses can be stored for up to five years with proper care, such as keeping them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. However, it is best to check with your contact lens provider for specific shelf life information, as some types of lenses can only be stored up to 3 years.Can I wear year old contacts? ›
The expiration date on the package displays the last month and year that the container should be free from contamination and the lenses inside are safe to wear. The doctors of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Optometric Association confirmed that expired contact lenses should NOT be used.Can you be too old for contact lenses? ›
“There's no age limit: You can wear contact lenses as long as they're working for you.” While that's surely good news for both long-time and would-be lens wearers, there are a few other myths we'd like to dispel.
How to buy contact lenses with an expired prescription? ›
Can You Get Contacts With an Expired Prescription? You need a prescription to obtain contacts of any kind. You cannot buy contacts without a valid prescription. If your prescription expires, you should visit your eye doctor for another exam and a new prescription.What is the new contact lens rule? ›
You must give the contact lens prescription to anyone who is designated to act on behalf of the patient, including contact lens sellers, within 40 business hours (unless it is invalid or expired).Is it okay to use contact lenses now if you haven t used them for months nor changed the solution? ›
Use only fresh solution to clean and store contact lenses. Never reuse old solution. Change your contact lens solution according to the manufacturer's recommendations, even if you don't use your lenses daily. Always follow the recommended contact lens replacement schedule prescribed by a doctor of optometry.What happens if you use expired contact lens solution? ›
Using your multipurpose solution beyond the discard date could result in contamination of the solution and can lead to severe infection, vision loss, or blindness. If you find a full bottle and it has an expiration date on it and it has passed, do not use it.Can I use 2 year old contacts? ›
A new lens will last about three years before it expires. You should never wear a lens that has expired. Provided that you care for them properly, contacts you've opened should last a day, two weeks, or a month, depending on the manufacturer's suggested wear time.Why shouldn't you wear contact lenses all day? ›
Risks of wearing contacts too long
Contact lenses that are left in too long can lead to the following conditions: Corneal ulcers (infectious keratitis): An open sore in the outer layer of the cornea. Hypoxia: A lack of oxygen that can lead to abnormal blood vessel growth into the cornea.
Leave contacts in the solution for at least 6 hours to allow the neutralizing process to finish. Never rinse your contact lenses with hydrogen peroxide solutions or put these solutions in your eyes.Can I put my contacts in a Ziploc bag? ›
You can use Ziploc bags or a cup to put your lenses in for a few hours. TAKE NOTE: This storage solution requires you to have saline, cleaning solution, or even your re-wetting eye drops in with the lenses. Otherwise, they will dry out. (You do not ever want to store your contact lenses in tap water.Can you rehydrate a contact lens? ›
To rehydrate your contact lenses, soak them in a contact case filled with fresh solution for at least 24 hours. Ideally, this should revitalize a lens that has been left out and dried up. Carefully reinsert the lens into your eye. If you feel discomfort or irritation, it's time to get rid of it.What happens if you use unopened expired contact solution? ›
You should not use expired contact solution to clean or store your contacts. After a solution expires, it starts to lose its disinfecting properties, and therefore won't clean your contacts as well as unexpired solutions. Your lenses may even become contaminated with impurities and/or bacteria.
What happens if you wear contacts past 30 days? ›
Wearing monthly lenses past 30 days (or daily/biweekly lenses for longer than you should) may result in contact lens buildup that causes blurry vision and a burning sensation. It also makes it harder for your contacts to stay moist, leading to dryness and irritation.Can I use expired contact lens reddit? ›
Anyway, moral of the story, no matter how tempting it is, don't use contacts past their expiry date ugh! TL;DR - wore expired contact lenses, one eye became super blurry after a few hours, worried I might have caught an infection or something in my eye.What to do if you accidentally use expired contact solution? ›
If you've been using expired solution to clean your contacts, do not rinse them off with water from the tap. Instead, pour out the old solution and replace it with fresh solution. To make sure that the lenses are adequately cleaned and covered with the new solution, rinse the lenses well with the new solution.What happens if you wear the same contacts for 3 months? ›
Wearing monthly contacts for more than a month
Over time, protein buildup on the lenses can further decrease the oxygen that reaches your eyes and make them increasingly prone to irritation and infection that can eventually lead to vision loss if not properly treated.
Contact lenses are not biodegradable and are generally made from plastic type materials, such as hydrogel, silicone hydrogel or non-hydrogel variants.It is possible to recycle contact lenses but it's usually not a practical option due to their small size and limitations of local authority recycling collections.