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Do Contact Lenses Expire?

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A woman using her left index finger to pull her eyelid up while she puts a contact lens on her right eye with her right hand

It’s no secret that contact lenses have become a popular choice for vision correction, offering convenience and comfort compared to traditional glasses

However, people may not realize that contact lenses have an expiration date. Printed on the package is an expiry date, after which the lens cannot be guaranteed to be sterile, and the package should be disposed of. Never put expired contacts in your eyes, as it can cause infection or irritation. 

Whether you’re a longtime contact lens wearer or considering the switch to ditch the frames, you’ll need a contact lens exam and fitting to find contact lenses that fit your lifestyle, vision needs, and eye health. 

What Are Contact Lenses?

Contact lenses are medical devices and come in several types, such as hard and soft contact lenses, offering many benefits. Soft contact lenses are made from hydrogel or a softer plastic. They are less durable but more comfortable to wear as they contain more water and allow more oxygen to reach the cornea. 

Hard contact lenses, in contrast, consist of firmer plastic material, making them more durable. They are less likely to absorb foreign material from the eyes or the environment but can take time to adjust to these contact lenses. 

Even with all the benefits, contact lenses can also pose certain risks, including eye infections, discomfort, and other adverse effects, mainly caused by:

  • Improper care or cleaning of contact lenses
  • Overnight or extended use of contact lenses
  • Using expired contact lenses
  • Incorrect contact lens prescription 
  • Improper fit of contact lenses

Do Contact Lenses Expire?

Yes, contact lenses have expiry dates, and there are several reasons why. Contact lenses are like sponges, absorbing and retaining the chemicals and compositions of their surroundings—your eyes, the cleaning solution, and any impurities that sneak in unnoticed. 

The expiry date should be printed clearly on the package of your lenses. But you can always consult your optometrist for the most precise advice, as certain lens types may have shorter or longer lifespans. If you’re wearing monthly or rigid-gas permeable lenses, the package may be long gone while you’re still using the lenses regularly.

The Importance of Expiration Dates

Health and safety are paramount when it comes to your eyes. Using lenses that have exceeded their expiration can lead to a host of issues, including:

  • Increased infection risk: An expired lens can harbour bacteria, which can cause infections. 
  • Decreased oxygen permeability: Over time, the material of the lenses toughens and becomes less breathable, reducing the flow of oxygen to the eyes and causing discomfort.
  • Diminished vision and comfort: Due to increased deposits and warping of the lens, you might start experiencing blurriness of vision and discomfort.

Checking the Expiry Dates

Here’s how to properly check the expiry date of your contact lenses:

  • Check the packaging for the date of manufacture and the expiry date.
  • Flip through the directions that arrive with your lenses. They should specify the duration of use.
  • If in doubt, ask your optometrist for advice. 

Signs That You Might Need New Contact Lenses

Even if your lenses haven’t reached their printed expiry date, if something doesn’t feel right, then it might be time to change. Here are some common signs it might be time to swap them out:

  • Frequent tearing
  • Itchiness or dryness
  • Burning
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blurred or distorted vision

Minimize the Risks When Using Contact Lenses

There are several things you can do to minimize the adverse risks to your eye health when wearing contact lenses, including:

  • Get a valid contact lens prescription. 
  • Have a proper contact lens fitting.
  • Attend regular eye exams.
  • Read information pamphlets that come with your contact lenses.
  • Follow a cleaning routine as recommended by your eye doctor. 
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before handling your contact lenses.
  • Do not use tap water or saliva to clean contact lenses.
  • Speak to your eye doctor before switching brands of contact lens solutions.
  • Only wear your contact lenses for the recommended time. Do not reuse disposable contact lenses or keep lenses beyond the recommended usage schedule. 
  • Remember that overnight wear of contact lenses can increase your risk of an eye infection.
  • Don’t share contact lenses.
  • Carry artificial tears or glasses with you for dry or irritated eyes. 
  • Wear protective eyewear when playing sports or other potentially hazardous activities. 
An optometrist talking to her patient in an exam room

Eye Health & Vision Comfort

The convenience of contact lenses comes with a small but critical responsibility—be mindful of their shelf life. By being aware of the potential hazards of expired lenses and watching out for the signs, you can protect your eye health and vision comfort. 

Regular check-ups and open communication with your eye doctor mean you can get the most out of your lenses. If you experience discomfort wearing contact lenses, remove them immediately and book an appointment with Mint Eyecare. 

Written by Mint Eyecare

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