Contact lenses are a popular choice for people who need vision correction. They’re convenient, easy to maintain, easy to store, and it’s almost impossible to tell you’re wearing them. But many people have the same question: how long do contact lenses last?
Every contact lens case has an expiration date printed on it. As time goes by, the seal on the case begins to degrade and let contaminants in. Once the printed expiration date has passed, the contacts are no longer safe to wear, and should be discarded.
How Do Contact Lenses Expire?
Every pair of contact lenses comes in a sealed case, usually made of plastic. The contacts are sealed inside and stored in a contact solution that keeps them moist and clean.
However, over time, this seal can begin to degrade. As oxygen enters and permeates the case and lens, contamination becomes possible. If the case becomes compromised, the contacts themselves end up sitting in a pool of bacteria and disease-causing microbes.
The solution used to clean and store contact lenses can expire as well. After its expiration date, it can become more acidic or alkaline, directly damaging the lens itself. Expired contact cleaning solution is also significantly less effective when it comes to sterilization, so it becomes more important to keep on top of the expiration date and make sure that the solutions you use to clean your contacts are in-date and as effective as they can be.
And once these bacteria begin spreading on the surface of the lens, they become dangerous to put in your eye, as the bacteria will spread to you. This can lead to a whole host of potential problems with your vision and the overall health of your eyes, like blurred vision or even severe eye infections like pseudomonas aeruginosa.
Since each set of contact lenses has its own expiration date, it’s important to check often and ensure that you aren’t at risk of developing any of these conditions or diseases.
What Happens If Contact Lenses Expire?
Once contact lenses expire, they can become a health hazard.
The case and solution are designed to keep the lenses in an airtight and sterile environment. This makes them safe for direct contact with eyes once rinsed and reduces the risk of any potential infections or eye conditions.
However, once expired, they no longer guarantee this sterile environment. The nature of the case (a closed, moist environment) becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and disease-causing microbes. In extreme situations, spores can enter through the air and begin developing into a fungus that, when spread to the eyes, can lead to severe long-term damage to your vision.
If any of these develop in the case, solution, or on the surface of the lens, they can spread to your eye once the contact is inserted.
What to Do When My Contacts Expire
When your contact lenses are close to their expiration, you should always make a point of ordering a new pair so that you’ll have a replacement ready.
Contact lenses come in many different varieties and each with their own duration. You should avoid wearing an expired set, whether daily, weekly, or monthly lenses. Ensure you properly care for your lenses to maximize how long they last! And, of course, going in for regular comprehensive eye exams is an excellent choice to make sure you’re always up-to-date with any information regarding your contact lenses.
Some practical things you can do to maintain your lenses as long as possible include:
- Wash your hands before and after handling the lenses
- Avoid using expired contact cleaning or storing solutions
- Follow all instructions that come with the case
- Follow the recommendations of your eye care professional
If you notice any irritation or pain during or after wearing your contact lens, avoid wearing them until you can speak with your eye care professional.
We Care About Your Vision
You only get one set of eyes. Here at Family EyeCare Center Optometry, your vision is as important to us as it is to you. If you have any questions about contact lenses, want to schedule an eye exam, or need help with vision-related issues, book an appointment with us today!