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Essential Facts About Contact Lens Expiration: What You Must Know!

Sep 09,2023 | MCLEYE


Contact lenses have seamlessly integrated into the lives of countless people, providing vision correction as well as unparalleled convenience. Despite the comfort and clarity they bring, one feature that is sometimes ignored is their expiration date. Contact lens expiry is important for more than just convenience; it has a direct influence on your eye health and general well-being. In this comprehensive article, we'll dig into the crucial facts concerning contact lens expiry, allowing you to make informed decisions and protect your valuable vision.

Bacteria On Your Contact Lenses

  • Understanding Microbial Concerns

Contact lenses have expiration dates to minimize the risk of bacterial accumulation on the lenses. These lenses have a tendency to absorb bacteria, dust, and allergens, functioning somewhat like a sponge. As time goes on, these bacteria can proliferate, potentially causing infections. Severe eye infections can result in corneal ulcers, which may lead to lasting vision impairment.

  • Balancing Vision and Oxygen

In Our Eyes, Oxygen Is Critical. However, when contact lenses age, their permeability decreases, hindering the proper flow of oxygen to your eyes. Inadequate oxygen can lead to symptoms like eye swelling, redness, and irritation. 

colored contacts oxygen permeability

About Contact Lens Expiration

  • Is there an expiration date for contact lenses? Why Do They Expire?

Contact lenses have expiration dates for essential reasons related to eye health and safety. Lenses accumulate germs and residues over time, leading to discomfort and irritation. Adhering to the manufacturer's recommended replacement schedule ensures you always have fresh, clean lenses.

Additionally, contact lens prescriptions expire after one year or as determined by state law, per FDA regulations. This helps ensure you receive suitable medical products and allows for monitoring potential complications. Following these guidelines is vital for maintaining optimal eye care and overall well-being.

  • Types of Contacts & Their Expiration Dates

Contact lenses come in a variety of styles, each with its own distinct expiration date. Understanding these nuances is essential for maintaining good eye health. Let's look at the lifespans of three typical types of lenses: daily disposables, monthly lenses, and yearly lenses.

1. Daily Disposables:

   Daily disposable contact lenses are intended for one-time usage only. They are only worn once before being discarded at the end of the day. These lenses don't need to be cleaned or stored in a contact lens case. For daily disposables, the expiration date is usually printed on the individual lens blister package. It is critical to follow this expiration date since using expired daily lenses might cause pain and serious eye infections.

2. Monthly Lenses:

   Monthly contact lenses are normally changed once a month. These lenses must be cleaned on a regular basis and stored in a contact lens case. Monthly lenses are durable and may tolerate daily usage for up to 30 days, but you must stick to the replacement plan suggested by your eye doctor. Wearing monthly lenses over their expiration date might cause pain and an increased risk of eye infections.

3. Yearly Lenses:

   Yearly contact lenses are intended to be used for up to a year before being changed with a new set. Between usage, they must be cleaned and stored in a contact lens case with a specified disinfection solution. The entire lifespan of Yearly lenses varies according to manufacturer and material. To preserve the best vision and eye health, always follow your eye care professional's advice and change them on the prescribed period.

To summarize, different types of contact lenses have varied expiration dates. Daily disposable lenses are discarded after one usage, monthly lenses can be worn for up to 30 days, and yearly lenses can be used for up to one year. Maintaining eye comfort and health while wearing contact lenses requires adhering to these replacement schedules and good lens maintenance procedures. Always consult with your eye care professional for personalized guidance on contact lens wear and replacement.

  • How Do I Find My Contacts' Expiration Date? What It Means

Contact lens expiration dates can be located in two places: on the box and within the aluminum fold of the blister packaging (near your contact lens prescription, manufacturer information, and lot number). Typically, it is indicated alongside an hourglass symbol (⌛) or the abbreviation "EXP," and it can be presented in two formats:

1. YYYY-MM — For example, 2025-08, representing August 2025.
2. YYYY-MM-DD — For example, 2025-08-03, signifying August 3rd, 2025.

The FDA, which regulates contact lenses and other medical devices in the United States, sets severe safety and efficacy testing standards on such goods. Manufacturers of contact lenses must conduct extensive tests to demonstrate the stability and safety of both the lenses and the solution within blister packs for a specified period, which might be, for example, five years. This essentially implies that the lenses and the solution in which they are stored have only been tested for that specified period, and this information is used to establish the expiration date displayed on each package.

How Do I Find My Contacts' Expiration Date

  • The Effects of Wearing Expired Contact Lenses

There are several hazards to wearing contact lenses over their expiration date. Improper lens cleaning and disregarding expiry dates are two of the leading causes of contact lens-related eye infections. Poor contact lens cleanliness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is a key risk factor for a variety of eye diseases.

The following issues are related to wearing expired or inadequately cared-for contacts:

Keratitis of the cornea.
Moderate to intense eye pain.
Light sensitivity.
Red eye.
Partial or total loss of vision.

  • What to Do If You Accidentally Wore Expired Contacts?

Human errors are bound to happen, and when it comes to wearing expired contact lenses, it is generally not a cause for immediate concern in most instances. However, it is crucial to take certain precautions.

The most common outcome of wearing expired contact lenses is mild eye irritation, which typically resolves on its own within a short period. In rare circumstances, this irritation could potentially escalate into a more serious issue, such as an eye infection. Therefore, if you experience any discomfort, including sensations like burning, redness, or blurred vision, it is advisable to seek prompt consultation with your eye doctor. In the event that you discover your contact lenses have expired, it is wise to remove and properly dispose of them without delay to minimize any potential risks.

  • How to Dispose of Expired Contact Lenses?

*Eco-Friendly Farewells

It's crucial to be environmentally responsible when it comes to disposing of expired contact lenses. Improper disposal can have detrimental effects on the environment and aquatic life. Therefore, avoid the temptation to toss expired contacts down the sink or toilet, as it can lead to long-term damage.

The most eco-friendly method for disposing of expired contact lenses is to place them in a waste bin. Flushing contacts or washing them down the drain poses a significant threat because they may not be effectively filtered out of sewage systems, ultimately finding their way into local streams and rivers, causing harm to wildlife. For those seeking a more sustainable option, considering wearing eyeglasses more frequently or exploring corrective eye surgery to eliminate the need for contacts altogether is a thoughtful step.

It's also important to bear in mind that your contact lens prescription typically expires after a year. An annual eye examination is necessary to ensure that your prescription remains accurate and accounts for any natural changes in your vision or eye health. So, rather than reaching for that forgotten box of contacts tucked away in your cabinet, prioritize keeping your contacts up-to-date and aligned with your most recent prescription. By doing so, you not only safeguard the environment but also maintain the best care for your eyes.

How to Dispose of Expired Contact Lenses?

  • Can I Use Expired Contact Lens Solution?

Using expired contact lens solutions can be unsafe for your eyes due to potential pH changes and bacterial contamination. To stay safe:

1. Check Expiration Dates: Regularly inspect the expiration date on your solution bottle.

2. Dispose of Expired Solution: If it's expired, discard it according to the manufacturer's guidelines.

3. Clean Your Lens Case: Maintain a clean lens case to prevent contamination.

4. Use Fresh Solution: Always use unexpired solutions for cleaning and storing your lenses.

5. Follow the Manufacturer's Instructions: Adhere to the manufacturer's guidelines for lens care.

Prioritize your eye health and avoid using expired contact lens solutions to prevent infections and discomfort.

  • Contact Lens Care Tips

To minimize the risk of complications, such as infections resulting from contact lens wear, it is essential to adhere to proper contact lens care practices. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AOA) provides the following guidelines to prevent contact lens infections:

1. Rub your lenses while cleaning: Ensure you gently rub your contact lenses during the cleaning process to dislodge any accumulated proteins and bacteria on the lens surface.

2. Rinse and store with contact lens solutions: Always use commercially available contact lens solutions for rinsing and storing your contact lenses. These solutions are designed to disinfect and maintain the cleanliness of your lenses.

3. Regularly replace your contact lens case: Replace your contact lens case at least three times a year to prevent the buildup of potentially harmful microorganisms in the case.

4. Allow your eyes to breathe: Give your eyes a break by removing your contact lenses, especially overnight. Letting your eyes rest without lenses can help maintain eye health and reduce the risk of complications.

5. Adhere to replacement schedules: Follow the recommended replacement schedule for your contact lenses, and do not attempt to extend their use beyond their expiration date. Using expired lenses can increase the risk of infections and discomfort.

By following these guidelines, you can safeguard your eye health and reduce the chances of encountering contact lens-related infections and complications.