What You Should Know About Expired Contact Lenses

Just like other prescriptions, contact lens prescriptions usually expire after a year; You should have an annual eye exam to make sure your eyes remain healthy and your refractive error is unaltered. Your eye doctor can further explain why such is necessary. Never wear Expired Contact Lenses.
Expired Contact Lenses
The contact lens expiration date is printed on the package and is usually written in mm/yy format. For example, a date of 03/18 means that the contact lens is deemed safe to use until the end of March 2018. Make sure you check before wearing it.
If you are a wearer who ignores the expiration date then here are four things you should know about the expired contact lens.

  1. Beyond the expiration dates, the contact lens manufacturer cannot guarantee that lenses are safe to wear. Despite that the lenses are sealed in an airtight container, it’s possible that the sealed container can become damaged and jeopardized over time, probably leading to contamination of saline solution and lens inside.
  2. 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.
  3. The doctors of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Optometric Association confirmed that expired contact lenses should NOT be used. The solution containing the lenses can go bad, it can become more acidic or more alkaline and with an unstable pH (acidity) can cause infection and become uncomfortable to wear.
  4. Bacteria, fungi, and amoebae present on an expired contact lens can cause severe eye infections that can lead to blindness.When your prescription expires, you won’t be able to buy more lenses until you get an updated prescription, so as the date approaches you should set up an appointment with your eye doctor.

Obeying the expiration date is very important for your safety while wearing contact lenses.
A contact lens expiration date is marked on every individual lens package. Chances are high that you rarely look at that date, for a few reasons: it’s just one of a bunch of numbers on a small package, it’s not clear why it matters, and generally, the dates are so far into the future that regular wearers use all of their lenses long before the date. But while the reasons behind it might not be clear, obeying the expiration date is an important part of safely wearing contact lenses.

What the Contact Lens Expiration Date Means

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates contact lenses and other medical devices, requires rigorous safety and efficacy testing on such products. Contact lens manufacturers are required to demonstrate, through tests, that their lenses with solution blister packs will remain stable and safe for a certain period of time, for example, perhaps five years. Essentially what it means is that the lenses, and the solution that contains them, have only been tested for that period of time, which is then used to set the expiration date to stamp on each package.

The Dangers of Expired Lenses

Beyond those expiration dates, the manufacturer cannot guarantee that the lenses are safe to wear. What can happen to the lenses after the expiration date?
The most serious concern is that poorly sealed packaging could allow bacterial and fungal contamination into the solution. These were the two things tested for in a study published in The South African Optometrist about the safety of expired lenses. In this preliminary study, the researchers did find some contamination in expired lens packs, but they were unable to make any broad claims due to very small sample size (their stated goal was more to spark further study than to answer the question authoritatively).
The Huffington Post posed the question of expired lens safety to eye doctors representing the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Optometric Association. The doctors confirmed that you should definitely not use expired lenses. The solution containing the lenses can go bad, they explained-specifically, it can become more acidic or more alkaline (basic). With an unstable pH (acidity), “the lens, when the solution expires, can cause infection and become very uncomfortable.”
If a contact lens has survived the long shelf life before its marked expiration date, it has probably received some abuse-perhaps from being left in the bottom of a bag or crammed into a car glovebox. This means that there is a good chance that the packaging has been compromised, allowing contamination to enter.
Bacteria, fungi, and amoebae can cause serious eye infections that can lead to blindness. That risk, however small it may be, should be enough of a reason to heed the contact lens expiration date.

Soft Contact Lens Packaging

Most soft contacts sold today are packaged individually in small, plastic “flat pack” containers with a sealed foil cover. The containers usually are filled with non-preserved buffered saline (salt water) and a wetting agent to keep the lens fully hydrated.
For cost and weight reasons, these plastic containers are much more common now than the traditional glass vials that once were the predominant packaging method for soft lenses.
The foil cover of soft contact lens containers typically displays the following information:

  • Contact lens brand name
  • Lens material name
  • Name of manufacturer
  • Base curve of lens
  • Lens diameter
  • Lens power
  • Lot number
  • Expiration date

Other information also may be included, such as the CE mark (mandatory for lenses sold in countries of the European Union and European Economic Area) and the location where the lens was made.

Gas Permeable Contact Lens Packaging

Unlike soft contact lenses, rigid gas permeable contacts generally are shipped dry from the manufacturer to the eye doctor. Also, gas permeable (GP) lenses are made-to-order and customized to the wearer’s eye shape and prescription with a lathe-cutting process.
For these reasons, there is no risk of GP lenses becoming contaminated from being kept in a fluid-filled container for long periods of time. Therefore, gas permeable contacts typically don’t require an expiration date.
The expiration date on your contact lens prescription is the last date that your eye doctor has authorized you to purchase new contacts with the prescription.
Contact lens prescriptions generally expire in one year. This is because you should have an annual eye exam if you wear contact lenses to make sure your eyes are remaining healthy and your refractive error is unchanged.

How to Care for Your Contact Lenses and Eyes

Follow these steps to extend the life of your contact lenses and keep your eyes safe and healthy.

Cleaning Tips

The type of lens you have determines how you care for it.
Disposable extended-wear soft lenses need the least care. Conventional soft lenses take the most work. Follow all directions, or you could have vision problems. If you have a hard time with these steps, talk to your eye doctor. You may be able to make the steps easier, or you could switch to daily disposable lenses.

  1. Before you handle contacts, wash and rinse your hands with a mild soap. Make sure it doesn’t have perfumes, oils, or lotions. They can leave a film on your hands. If they get on your lenses, your eyes could get irritated or your vision might be blurry.
  2. Dry your hands with a clean, lint-free towel.
  3. If you use hair spray, use it before you put in your contacts. It’s also a good idea to keep your fingernails short and smooth so you won’t damage your lenses or scratch your eye.
  4. Put on eye makeup after you put in your lenses. Take them out before you remove makeup.
  5. Some contacts need special care and products. Always use the disinfecting solution, eye drops, and enzymatic cleaners your doctor recommends. Some eye products or eye drops aren’t safe for contact wearers.
  6. Never put tap water directly on your lenses. Even distilled water can be home to nasty little bugs that can cause an infection or hurt your vision.
  7. Never put a contact in your mouth to rinse it.
  8. Clean each contact this way: Rub it gently with your index finger in the palm of your other hand. Lightly rubbing your contact removes surface buildup.
  9. Clean your lens case every time you use it. Use either sterile solution. Let it air dry. Replace the case every 3 months.


Wear Your Contacts Safely

Wear Your Contacts Safely
Eyecare experts say daily disposable lenses are the safest soft contacts. Ask your doctor for advice on care.

  1. Wear your contacts each day only as long as your doctor recommends.
  2. If you think you’ll have trouble remembering when to change your lenses, ask your eye doctor for a chart to track your schedule. If he doesn’t have one, make one for yourself.
  3. Never wear someone else’s contacts, especially if they’ve already been worn. Using other people’s contact lenses can spread infections or particles from their eyes to yours.
  4. Don’t sleep with your contacts in unless you have extended-wear lenses. When your eyelids are closed, your tears don’t bring as much oxygen to your eyes as when they’re open.
  5. Don’t let the tip of solution bottles touch other surfaces, like your fingers, eyes, or contacts. Any of them can contaminate the solution.
  6. Wear sunglasses with total UV protection or a wide-brim hat when you’re in the sun.
  7. Use a rewetting solution or plain saline solution — whatever your doctor recommends — to keep your eyes moist.
  8. If you accidentally insert your contacts inside out, it won’t hurt your eye. But it won’t feel good, either. To avoid this, place the lens on the tip of your finger so it forms a cup. Look at the contact from the side. If the cup looks like it flares out at the top and has a lip, the lens is inside out. If it looks like the letter “U,” it’s right side out.
  9. If your eye gets irritated, take your contacts out. Don’t use them again until you’ve spoken to someone at your doctor’s office about the problem. If you keep wearing them, your eye could get infected. When you do start to wear contacts again, follow your doctor’s instructions to prevent an infection.
  10. Go to your eye doctor right away if you have any sudden vision loss, blurred vision that doesn’t get better, light flashes, eye pain, infection, swelling, unusual redness, or irritation.
  11. Don’t swim with your contacts in. Goggles are better than nothing, but there’s still a chance you could get a serious infection if you wear contacts in a pool, or worse, in a lake.


Contact Lens Risks

Contact lenses that are old or that do not fit well can scratch your eye. They can also cause blood vessels to grow into your cornea, a dangerous condition that threatens your vision.
Eye drops can cause problems with your contact lenses. It is best to avoid using any kind of eye drop when wearing contacts. However, you can use wetting drops or preservative-free lubricating drops as recommended by your eye doctor.
Remove your contact lenses and call your eye doctor right away if your eyes are very redpainful, watery or sensitive to light. Do the same if you have blurry vision or notice discharge (ooze or pus) coming from your eye. These can be symptoms of serious eye problems.

Take Proper Care of Your Contacts

How to Care for Your Contact Lenses and Eyes
You must clean and disinfect any contact lens you remove from your eye before you put the lens back in. There are many types of cleansing systems. The choice depends on the type of lens you use, if you have allergies or if your eyes tend to form protein deposits. Ask your eye doctor what kind of cleaning solutions you should use.
Take special care to clean and store your lenses correctly to avoid dangerous eye infections.
Here is what you should do:

  • Follow the schedule your eye doctor gives you for wearing and replacing your lenses. You should not wear daily wear lenses while you sleep.
  • Remove contact lenses before taking a shower, using a hot tub, swimming, or doing anything where water gets in your eyes.
  • Before touching your contact lenses, wash your hands with soap and water and dry them with a lint-free towel.
  • Never put contacts in your mouth to wet them. Saliva (spit) is not a sterile solution.
  • Do not rinse or store contacts in water (tap or sterile water). Also, never use a homemade saline solution.
  • Do not use saline solution or rewetting drops to disinfect your lenses. They are not disinfectants.
  • Follow directions from your doctor and from the lens cleaning solution manufacturer to clean and store your lenses.
  • No matter what type of lens cleaning solution you buy, use a “rub and rinse” cleaning method. Rub your contact lenses with clean fingers, then rinse the lenses with solution before soaking them. Use this method even if the solution you are using is a “no-rub” type.
  • Use new solution each time you clean and disinfect your contact lenses. Never reuse or “top off” with old solution. Also, do not pour contact lens solution into a different bottle. The solution will no longer be sterile.
  • Make sure the tip of the solution bottle does not touch any surface. Keep the bottle tightly closed when you are not using it.
  • Rinse your contact lens case with sterile contact lens solution (not tap water). Then leave the empty case open to air dry.
  • Keep your contact lens case clean. Replace the case at least every 3 months, or right away if it gets cracked or damaged.
  • If you store your lenses in the case for a long time, check the contact lens instructions or the lens solution directions to see if you should re-disinfect them before wearing them. Never wear your contact lenses if they have been stored for 30 days or longer without re-disinfecting.
  • Contact lenses can warp over time, and your cornea can change shape. To make sure your lenses fit properly and the prescription is right for you, see your eye doctor regularly.

How to Care for Your Contact Lenses and Eyes

Are Contacts Right for You?

Millions of people choose to wear contact lenses. However, they are not for everyone. You might not be able to wear them for the following reasons:

  • You get a lot of eye infections.
  • You have severe allergies or dry eyes that are hard to treat.
  • You work or live where it is very dusty.
  • You are not able to properly care for your contact lenses.

Your cornea and tear film must be healthy for you to be comfortable and see clearly with contact lenses.
To safely wear contact lenses, you must be committed to caring for them properly and replacing them when needed. Talk with your ophthalmologist or other eye care professional to discuss your vision needs and expectations. They can help you decide if contacts are a good option for you.