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Can Contact Lenses Expire?

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A close-up image of a woman carefully inserting a contact lens.

If you’re one of the millions of people who wear contact lenses, you know how convenient and comfortable they can be. They’re an incredible alternative to eyeglasses and are wonderful for treating all kinds of vision problems. However, you might be wondering, “Do contact lenses expire?”

Each set of contact lenses has an individual expiration date. Some last for weeks, while others are only designed to be worn once. It’s crucial to keep an eye on the expiration date, as wearing lenses past this point increases the risk of eye infections, scratches, and more.

The Different Types of Contacts

When it comes to contacts, it’s important to start by learning about the different types. The material plays a key role in how long the lenses last.

There are two main types of contact lenses. First, there are rigid gas-permeable lenses—these are made of a hard, semi-flexible material designed to allow oxygen through. They’re often used to treat complex vision problems like astigmatism and tend to last a long time.

Then, there are soft lenses. They’re typically made of a soft silicone hydrogel material designed to let oxygen cleanly through to reach the cornea. These are often considered much more comfortable than rigid lenses, and can easily be worn for hours on end without much irritation. However, they don’t last as long as rigid lenses.

How Long Do Contact Lenses Last?

The material plays an important role in the lifespan of your contact lenses, but that’s only one piece of the puzzle. There are several types of contacts, each with its own timeline.

There are 5 common types of contact lenses:

  • Daily disposables: These lenses are designed to be worn for one day and then discarded. They’re the most convenient option, as you don’t need to worry about cleaning or storing them.
  • Weeklies: As the name suggests, these lenses are meant to be worn for one week and then replaced. They require daily cleaning and proper storage.
  • Bi-weeklies: These lenses are designed to be worn for two weeks before being replaced. Like weeklies, they need daily cleaning and proper storage.
  • Monthlies: Monthly lenses can be worn for up to 30 days before needing to be replaced. They also require daily cleaning and storage.
  • Costume lenses: These are designed to be worn for a short period of time, such as for a costume party or special event. You should never wear these for longer than recommended. If you’re looking for costume lenses, make sure you’re purchasing them through your optometrist to ensure you choose a safe pair.

No matter the type of contact lens, it’s crucial to keep an eye on the expiration date. Always follow the specific instructions provided by your eye care professional and the lens manufacturer.

A man in a green shirt with a contact lens resting on the tip of his finger while he holds the storage case.

Are Expired Contacts Safe to Wear?

The expiration date is a lot more important than you may think. It isn’t a recommendation, it’s the last day the manufacturer thinks the lenses will be safe to use.

Over time, the materials in the lens can begin wearing down, making them less effective and less comfortable. The case and cleaning solution stop being as effective as well. The seals can break or leak, letting in harmful bacteria and debris. And if these contaminants touch the lenses, they can easily be transmitted to your eye.

If your contact lenses are past their expiration date, you should never wear them. Doing so puts you at risk of:

  • Eye infections
  • Corneal scratches
  • Allergic reactions
  • Vision impairment

This is why it’s so crucial to keep an eye out for expired lenses, cases, and materials. Don’t put your eyes at risk; if your lenses are expired, reach out to your optometrist and schedule a contact lens fitting to replace them.

What to Expect from a Contact Lens Fitting

Whether you’re new to contact lenses or switching to a new type, you’ll need a contact lens fitting and exam with your optometrist. This is like a regular eye exam but designed to get you the right prescription and lenses.

During this fitting and exam, your optometrist will:

  • Measure your eyes to determine the right size and shape of lens for you
  • Evaluate your tear film to ensure your eyes are healthy enough for contacts
  • Teach you how to properly insert, remove, and care for your lenses
  • Provide you with a trial pair of lenses to wear before finalizing your prescription

Once the fitting is done, your optometrist will take some time to explain how to properly maintain your contacts so you can enjoy using them safely.

Where to Replace Your Contact Lenses

If you need new contact lenses or want to learn more about properly taking care of them, reach out to our team at Eye Effects. We’re here to help you find the right fit so you can enjoy all the benefits of contact lenses—without worrying about an expired pair. Book an appointment with our team today!

Written by Dr. Jeffrey Waddell

Dr. Jeffrey Waddell is a graduate of the University of Alberta and the Pacific University College of Optometry. He has practiced optometry since 2002. He has practiced optometry all over the United States and Canada, and in Calgary since 2013. Dr. Waddell enjoys spending time in the great outdoors with his wife Alanna, and three children and two dogs. Dr. Waddell has a special interest in pediatrics, dry eye treatment, contact lenses and eye nutrition.
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