Contact lenses are a great way to correct vision without having to wear glasses. They can provide freedom of movement and clear vision, but contact lenses do come with some additional responsibilities. One of these responsibilities is properly caring for your lenses, which, if they are reusable, includes regularly disinfecting your lenses between wears.
If your lenses do require this type of maintenance, using contact lens solution will be an essential part of your eye care routine. Like other eye care products, including the contact lenses themselves and eye drops, contact lens solution does expire—but how important is it to adhere to this expiry date?
While it may be tempting to use expired contact lens solution to save a few dollars, it is important to understand that expired contact lens solution could put your vision and ocular health at risk, and you should not use it. Contact lens solution has an expiry date for a reason, and it can lose its efficacy if used past the listed expiry date and result in serious health consequences.
Why You Need Contact Lens Solution
Proper contact lens care is essential to maintaining clear vision and good ocular health while wearing contacts. If you have reusable contact lenses, thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting your lenses after each use will be a regular part of your contact lens care routine.
Contact lens solution is specially formulated to remove dirt, debris, and other particles that can accumulate on the surface of the lenses, as well as kill bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that may pose a threat to your ocular health.
Most contact lens solutions fall into one of two categories: multipurpose solutions or hydrogen peroxide solutions:
- Multipurpose solutions: these solutions are formulated to clean, disinfect and store contact lenses while being non-toxic to the eyes.
- Hydrogen peroxide solutions: as the name implies, these solutions contain hydrogen peroxide and can offer more thorough cleaning and disinfecting. When using a hydrogen peroxide solution, the contact lenses must be placed in a special case that neutralizes the solution before the lenses can be placed on the eyes.
It is important to use the correct contact lens solution for your specific type of lenses. Your optometrist should provide you with comprehensive instructions on contact lens wear and care practices for your unique set of lenses during a contact lens fitting and assessment.
How Long Is Contact Lens Solution Good For?
While it is important to note the expiry date of your contact lens solution, it is equally if not more important to keep in mind the discard date. This date refers to how long you can keep a solution after opening it. Most solutions should be replaced within 90 days of opening, however, you should consult with your optometrist or contact lens solution manufacturer for precise instructions on your specific brand of contact lens solution.
To maintain efficacy, contact lens solution should be replaced by either the listed expiry date on the packaging or the discard date, whichever comes first.
Why Can’t I Use Expired Contact Lens Solution?
Contact lenses are a medical device and should be treated as such. That includes replacing your lenses and any corresponding care products when they expire.
One of the primary reasons why you should never use expired contact lens solution is that the solution may lose its ability to disinfect over time. Disinfection is one of the most important functions of contact lens solution, as it kills off bacteria, germs, and other microorganisms that may cause eye infections or other complications.
You Could Get an Eye Infection (Or Worse)
Research shows that contact lenses can serve as a vector for bacteria and microorganisms to adhere to the ocular surface. These bacteria can multiply and lead to inflammation or an infection. Using expired solution may increase your risk of this happening.
Microbial keratitis is caused by germs, including viruses, bacteria, and parasites, that may be transferred to the cornea from improperly disinfected contact lenses. Keratitis can be a serious condition that can lead to permanent vision loss if left untreated.
The symptoms of keratitis can vary depending on the cause and severity of the condition but may include:
- Eye pain or discomfort
- Sensation of a foreign object in the eye
- Red eyes
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Excessive tearing or discharge from the eye
Proper Contact Lens Care & Wear
By following proper contact lens maintenance, you can protect your eyes from potential complications, including infections and inflammation. While contact lens care will vary depending on your specific lenses, here are some general tips for caring for your contacts:
- Always wash your hands before handling your lenses.
- Never use tap water or saliva to clean or rinse your contact lenses.
- Do not “top off” contact lens solution. Always use fresh solution in your case and discard after each use.
- Replace your contact lens case at least every 3 months.
- Don’t overwear your contacts. Replace your lenses as prescribed or if they are expired.
Some contact lenses require more maintenance than others. Daily disposables can be a good option for individuals who are looking for a lower maintenance option that still provides the freedom of contact lenses.
Prioritizing Eye Health While Wearing Contact Lenses
Proper contact lens maintenance includes regular visits to your optometrist. The knowledgeable team at Vista Eyecare is here to answer all of your contact lens-related questions and help you care for your eyes.