Contact lenses do in fact expire upon reaching their expiration dates. If you check the package before using your new pair of contacts, you will find the expiration date on the cover. Usually, contact lenses expire four years from the day of manufacture.
Many people who wear contact lenses do not know that the lenses have expiration dates. They also do not know that they should not use the contacts post expiry.
Technically, the plastic material that makes contact lenses does not expire. But the lenses can become dry or dirty and this begins the real problem of contamination.
Manufacturers keep contact lenses sterile throughout the production process. In the end, they place the contacts in a saline solution and seal them tight inside a plastic pack. The packaging is excellent, but it lasts only four years. After four years, the manufacturers cannot assure you that the saline solution will remain good for use.
The contact lenses become unhealthy when they reach the expiration date, regardless of whether anyone opens the package. This is because the lenses are vulnerable to infections that can harm your eye health. Bacteria, fungi, and amoeba are some infections that can get into expired contacts.
For one, you could develop a hole in your eye or go blind from an eye infection. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is one type of bacteria that can develop on expired contacts. The bacteria spreads infection fast, and if not detected in quickly, it can eat into your eye. At that point, you may go partially or completely blind based on the damage the bacteria cause.
Fungal infections and amoeba are other concerns. The saline solution in the package only keeps the contact lenses moist and does not disinfect them. That means if fungi or amoeba grow on the lenses, the solution cannot stop them. They can enter your eye and blur your vision.
The worst part is that these infections are difficult to diagnose. They could eventually lead you to have an eye transplant to repair the damage.
Many people use expired contact lenses even when they know they should not because they cannot afford new contacts. Poor communication between you and your optometrist can also leave you guessing when to throw away your contacts.
If you cannot afford new contact lenses, talk to your eye doctor about other treatment options. Your eye doctor can also give you daily, biweekly, or monthly contact lenses to suit your needs.
If your contacts have reached their expiration date, discard them in a garbage can. Avoid washing or flushing them down the drain. If not sieved, the lenses can end up in local rivers and streams, hurting wildlife.
Keep in mind that normally contact lens prescriptions expire after a year. An annual eye checkup is necessary to ensure your prescription is current and adjusted to your changing vision needs.
For more on why contacts expire, visit Optical Masters at our offices in Denver, Colorado. Call (720) 807-7300 or (720) 807-7600 to schedule an appointment today.