Universal Mentors Association

Wearing Expired Contacts Is Way Worse for You Than You Realize


If you’re a contact lens wearer, you can probably admit that there have been times when you’ve broken the cardinal rules on properly caring for them. This could be sleeping in them, reusing them when you’re not supposed to and in some cases, using them past their expiration date. I know I’ve done the latter and it wasn’t worth the harm it was causing my eyes. You may think you’re saving money or reusing them out of laziness, but this may be riskier behavior than you realize.

To determine if your contact lenses are expired, you need to look at the month and year printed on the box. For example, if it reads 06/23 on the box that means the contacts are OK to use until the end of June 2023. Using it any month beyond that can put your eyes at risk of infection or worse. 

Signs your eyes are responding negatively to expired contacts include initial burning, stinging and redness. “You should immediately remove the contacts and use preservative-free artificial tears if this happens,” said Dr. Yuna Rapoport, an ophthalmologist at Manhattan Eye. We spoke to her to discuss the side effects of using expired contact lenses and why you shouldn’t hold onto them.

Infections are a bigger risk

If you have expired contacts laying around, one of the things you may not be aware of is that even though they’re sealed, the solution may no longer be good. There is a higher health risk to using expired contacts or repurposing dailies that are designed to be discarded after a single use.

Expired solution in contact lenses can harbor bacteria and fungus, which can put you at risk for infections like bacterial keratitis. This infection affects your cornea and can result in eye redness, sensitivity to light, pain and blurred vision, to name a few symptoms. 

“The cornea gets its nutrients from the oxygen in front of it, so if the infection is small and in the periphery it may not cause permanent damage,” Rapoport explained. However, she points out that it’s more serious if it is a central infection. “This can scar, lead to irregular astigmatism and poor vision, and if it’s bad enough, a patient may have permanent vision loss or need a corneal transplant,” she warned. 

Disposable contact lens packaging.

Douglas Sacha/Getty Images

The prescription may be outdated

Keep in mind, contact lenses usually expire after a year, which is why you have to get a new prescription annually if you plan on continuing to wear them. But if your prescription has changed and you’re using expired contacts, it can lead to blurry vision, eye strain and fatigue. Instead, make sure you’re scheduling eye exams annually to make sure your eye prescription hasn’t changed and to get appropriately fitted for contact lenses. Another thing to know is that your glasses and contact lens prescription are not the same, so don’t think you can get away with just the one. 

Additionally, if you’re wearing an old contact lens prescription, chances are you’re straining your eyes and causing them to work harder than they need to. This type of straining can lead to headaches, which can keep you from concentrating at work or school. It’s even worse if you have presbyopia or longsightedness, which occurs as we get older and is when the eye loses its ability to change its focus to see things that are nearby. Make sure you’re always wearing the right prescription whether you opt for contact lenses or glasses.

Dry eyes are more likely

Besides the other risks involved when using expired contact lenses, you’ll also increase your chances of dry eyes. Contacts lose permeability over time, so if you’re using expired lenses, your eyes will feel less moist due to the lack of oxygen to the eyes. Dry eyes don’t seem like a big deal, but your eyes need tears to protect them from getting an infection. 

The drier your eye is while wearing expired contacts, the higher the chances you’re putting your cornea at risk of an infection. Therefore, patients with existing dry eye or other corneal conditions are at greater risk. 

“Using expired contacts puts you at risk of corneal ulcers, infections, keratitis, and inflammation,” warned Rapaport. “I do not recommend trying to extend the life of contacts, so they should be discarded accordingly,” she added. Lastly, she advises that the most hygienic way to use contacts is to wash your hands immediately before putting them in, and putting in a lubricating drop before putting a contact in and before removing it.


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