Contact lenses are an excellent option for those who need vision correction but prefer not to have frames on all day. Whether you prefer daily disposables or extended wear contacts that can be worn multiple times before they need to be replaced, there is a little date on the side of the box your contacts came in that you should be aware of. This is the expiry date for your contacts because contact lenses do expire, here’s why it matters.
Why Do Contacts Have an Expiry Date?
Soft Contact Lenses
When contact lenses are manufactured, each lens is sterilized before being packed into airtight blister packs containing saline solution. The maximum time that the saline solution and packaging can be kept in good condition is typically 3–4 years after the date of manufacture while sealed.
It should be noted that the soft contact lenses themselves don’t have an expiration date. The saline solution in the blister pack is usually what expires.
After the expiration date, the active ingredients in the saline solution begin to deteriorate and lose their form. Manufacturers also consider the possibility that the blister seal will lose its grip and allow air or bacteria through. This can lead to lens contamination of bacteria, fungi, and amoebae, which can all cause severe eye problems that can result in:
- Blurry vision
- Eye infections
Seal gaps can be so small that you may not notice them, so it’s really important to follow the expiration date listed on the contact lenses package for the safety of your eyes.
Another issue is that expired contact lenses become less permeable over time, making it more difficult for oxygen to reach your eyes. Without oxygen, your eyes can become swollen, red, and irritated.
A quick check of the expiration date and closely examining the contact lens packaging before wear is an important step in ensuring proper eye care.
Have You Been Wearing Expired Soft Contacts?
Wearing expired contact lenses can have several negative ocular health implications. Remember that after the expiration date, the solution is more likely to become contaminated. This increases your chances of experiencing discomfort, infections, and possibly permanent vision loss.
Always check the small date on the blister pack before placing your contacts on. Keep an eye out for expired contact lens symptoms if you have accidentally worn expired contacts and immediately contact your eye doctor or health care provider if any of these symptoms are present.
As we’ve discussed the dangers of wearing expired contacts, we should also note that overwearing your contacts can have just as negative an impact on your eye health.
- Daily contacts are only good for 8-16 hours after opening and should be discarded after use.
- Bi-Weekly contacts are only good for 14 days or less once opened and should be discarded after this period. Additionally, they need to be stored in a protective case with contact lens solution when not in use.
- Monthly contacts are only good for 30 days or less once opened and must be discarded after this period. They should also be stored in contact lens solution within a protective case when not in use.
Contact lens overwear erodes the corneal epithelium, and may result in an open sore on your cornea.
If contact lens overwear is detected early enough, you may need to stop wearing your lenses until your corneas heal, but if you wait too long, you may need medications and be unable to wear lenses for days, weeks, or even longer.
Does Contact Lens Solution Expire as Well?
Even contact lens solutions have an expiration date. The acidity level of the lens care solution changes after it expires, resulting in a loss of disinfecting power. The expired lens care solution may also be contaminated with bacteria, putting your eyes’ safety and health at risk.
How Do I Avoid Wasting Contacts?
If you are concerned about wasting contacts that are about to expire, we recommend using your lenses in order from oldest to newest, as long as none of them are past their expiration date. This way, older lenses won’t be forgotten or discarded because they’ve expired.
Our ordering system can send you reminders when it is time for you to order more contacts. Please contact the store to set this up and we are happy to help!
Is It Time for an Eye Exam?
Remember that in most cases, your contact lens prescription will expire after one year. An annual eye exam is needed to ensure that your prescription is up to date and has been adjusted to account for any natural changes in your vision or eye health. The expiration date of the prescription should be written on the paperwork you get from your optometrist’s office.
If you can’t find your physical prescription, get in touch with the last place you had an eye exam or ordered contacts from. Contacts worn with an outdated, inaccurate prescription can cause eye strain, headaches, and, in extreme cases, a serious accident.
So, instead of cracking open that box of forgotten contacts in the back of your cabinet, make sure your contacts are up to date and match your most recent prescription. Book an eye exam with the West Coast Optical team to ensure your contacts are correcting your vision the way they’re intended.