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Do Contact Lenses Expire?

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A pair of contact lenses on a reflective surface. The left lens is new and in good condition, while the right lens is expired and degraded

If you wear contact lenses, you may have wondered if they expire. If so, you’re not alone. Many people who use contacts for clear vision have asked themselves this same question. But, due to an overload of conflicting information, it can be challenging to get a straightforward answer. 

Yes, your contacts have an expiration date.

Why Do Contact Lenses Expire?

Soft contacts are often packaged in individual blister packs designed to ensure their sterility and protect them from damage. These packs contain a plastic or foil container holding a single lens suspended in a saline solution. Each lens is sealed separately, ensuring that it remains sterile until opened. 

Over time, contact lenses can deteriorate and become less comfortable to wear. The saline solution typically contains preservatives that help maintain its sterility. However, these preservatives can break down over time, leading to potential contamination and increased risk of eye infections. 

The expiration date is a guideline to ensure you’re using lenses that are still in good condition and that the solution is safe.

It’s important to pay attention to this date and not wear contact lenses past their expiration date. Expired lenses can cause various issues, from discomfort to eye infections. Knowing when your contact lenses expire and replacing them is important in maintaining healthy eyes and clear vision.

A close-up of someone washing their hands with soap and water

Tips for Keeping Your Contact Lenses in Good Condition

Contact lenses can be a hassle if not taken care of properly. Fortunately, you can follow a few simple tips to keep your lenses in good condition:

  • Always wash your hands thoroughly before handling your lenses to prevent dirt and bacteria from transferring to your lenses, which can cause infections. 
  • Store your lenses in a case filled with fresh solution each night to prevent bacteria from growing on your lenses. 
  • Never sleep in your lenses, even if they’re advertised as “extended wear” lenses. Sleeping in contact can lead to corneal ulcers and other serious eye infections. 

These tips can help keep your contact lenses in good condition and protect your eyes from associated risks.

Warning Signs of Expired Contact Lenses

Expired contact lenses can cause eye irritation, infections, and other problems. It’s essential to know the package’s expiration date and regularly check your lenses for signs of wear and tear. By doing so, you can help your eyes stay healthy.

Here are some indicators to watch for:

  • Discomfort or irritation: If your contact lenses are uncomfortable, scratchy, or cause irritation, it could be a sign that they are wearing out or becoming damaged. 
  • Blurry vision: If you notice a decline in the clarity of your vision while wearing contact lenses, it could be a sign that they are no longer providing optimal correction. 
  • Dryness or excessive eye redness: Degrading contact lenses can contribute to increased dryness or redness in the eyes. As lenses age, they may lose their ability to retain moisture, causing discomfort.
  • Changes in lens shape or fit: Worn-out contact lenses may lose their original shape or fit poorly on your eye. They might become warped, folded, or have rough edges, which can cause discomfort and affect vision quality.
  • Frequent lens deposits: If your contact lenses are accumulating more deposits, such as protein or lipid buildup, despite regular cleaning and maintenance, it could be a sign they’re degrading. Degraded lenses often have a harder time repelling debris and staying clean.

Risks Associated with Expired Contacts 

As contact lens wearers, we rely on these small medical devices to help us see the world each day. However, it’s important to know the risks of wearing expired contacts. Expired contacts can become dry and brittle, making them more likely to crack and break, which can cause discomfort and damage to your eyes. 

Expired contacts also have a higher chance of harboring harmful bacteria, which can cause infections like conjunctivitis and corneal ulcers. In contrast, fresh contacts are more pliable and free from harmful bacteria. With this in mind, it’s crucial to dispose of expired contacts properly and always opt for fresh lenses to avoid potential medical risks.

How to Dispose of Expired Contact Lenses Properly 

It’s important to dispose of expired contacts properly. Flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash can harm the environment and wildlife. So, what’s the best way to get rid of them? 

Many contact lens manufacturers offer recycling programs where you can send expired lenses and their packaging, reducing the amount of waste produced. Some eye doctors may also accept expired lenses for recycling. By taking the time to dispose of your contact lenses properly, you can help protect the planet and its inhabitants.

Let Us Help Protect Your Eyes 

Don’t take chances with your vision—come into Daniel Island Eye Care for a contact lens exam and fitting and advice on caring for contacts. Call us today for an appointment!

Dr. Turner

Written by Dr. Charles J. Turner, OD

Dr. Turner is extremely proud to be Daniel Island’s first optometrist, a distinction that has brought him great respect throughout the community. As a therapeutically licensed optometrist, Dr. Turner provides his patients with multifaceted care.

His practice has a unique approach thanks to his diverse blend of experience. He completed internships at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, MS, Montrose Veterans Hospital in Montrose, NY, and Huntington Veterans Hospital in Huntington, WV. These experiences have given Dr. Turner the confidence and ability to treat eyes of all ages and stages. Dr. Turner graduated with a BS in biology from Virginia Tech and received his Doctor of Optometry degree from Indiana University School of Optometry in Bloomington, IN.

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