Types of Contacts and Their Expiration Dates

6 sources cited
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Do Contact Lenses Expire?

Yes, contact lenses expire.

Soft contact lenses have an expiration date. Most soft contact lenses usually expire around four years from the date they were packaged.

Contact prescriptions also expire.

Your state usually sets the expiration date for your contact lenses prescription. This may require renewal between one to four years.

If your state has not indicated a prescription expiration date, it will expire in one year. This rule is set by federal regulation.

Take an annual eye exam to make sure you’re aware of any recent problems. If you haven’t had your eyes examined within the last year or two, you may have eye issues that you’re unaware of.

Or, your contact lenses may not improve your vision as well as possible. 

To check the expiration date of your contact lenses, refer to the packaging they come in. By checking the expiration date, you can avoid any issues or complications with wearing expired contacts.

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Types of Contacts & Their Expiration Dates

There are different types of contact lenses that fix different vision problems:

Soft Contact Lenses

Soft contact lenses are produced from silicone hydrogels. These materials allow oxygen to reach the cornea. Soft contact lenses are easy to adjust to and comfortable.

There are several types of soft contact lenses to choose from:

Daily Contact Lenses

Daily contact lenses are disposable. They are worn for one day then disposed of.

They are becoming very popular because they are more convenient and cleaner than other types of contacts.

Monthly Contact Lenses

Monthly contact lenses are also disposable. However, each pair lasts a full month. Every day they are removed and placed into a contact lens solution.

Monthly contacts are the most common type of lenses worn.

Extended Wear Contacts

Extended wear contact lenses are used for overnight or continuous wear. This can range from one to six nights or up to 30 days. Extended wear lenses are usually soft. Only certain people can use extended wear contacts, so check with your eye doctor.

Non-Prescription (Fake) Contacts

Fake contacts change the color of your eyes. Many people in the entertainment industry use them. They are safe, however, you need a prescription to purchase them from an authorized retailer.

Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) Lenses

Rigid gas permeable contact lenses are more durable and resistant to build-up than soft contact lenses. Hard lenses also usually provide clearer vision.

Rigid gas permeable lenses are also more affordable in the long term than soft lenses, as they last longer. If hard lenses are properly cared for, they can last for up to two years or even longer.

They’re also easier to handle and are less likely to break or tear than soft lenses. However, rigid gas permeable lenses aren’t as comfortable as soft contacts. 

Is It Dangerous to Wear Expired Contacts?

There are various risks linked with wearing old contact lenses. 

Improper lens and eye care and ignoring expiration dates are the two primary causes of eye infections linked to contact lens use. Poor contact lens hygiene is a considerable risk factor for eye health.

The risks of wearing expired contact lenses include:

  • Inflammation and reddening of the eye
  • Moderate to severe eye pain
  • Partial or total loss of vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Eye infections
  • Scarring

To avoid these eye issues, always check and follow your contact lens expiration date. Even unopened contact lenses that have expired can collect deposits on them and are unsafe to wear.

Following proper contact lens use is also recommended to reduce your likelihood of experiencing risks linked to contact lenses. Proper lens hygiene includes:

  • Cleaning your lenses thoroughly in a disinfecting solution
  • Never use plain saline solution or saliva to clean your contacts
  • Storing lenses properly in an airtight container
  • Frequently replacing your lenses case
  • Resting your eyes often without contacts in
  • Never trying to extend contact use beyond their shelf life

The longer you wear lenses, the more germs, proteins, and other residues collect on the surface of your contacts. With time, these deposits can affect your eyes.

To prevent irritation caused by old contact lenses, it’s essential to replace them as recommended by an eye doctor or optometrist. Even if you practice proper eye care and contact lens hygiene, contacts must be discarded and replaced as directed.

Approximately 99 percent of people wearing contacts report at least one contact lens hygiene behavior that increases their risk of eye inflammation or infection. Around 40 to 90 percent of wearers don’t practice proper care instructions for their contact lenses.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018

Common Questions & Answers

Why do contacts lenses expire?

Contact lenses and their prescriptions provide expiration dates to ensure that wearers receive suitable medical products and to identify any issues linked with their use.

Is it safe to use expired contact lenses?

Wearing contact lenses that are past their shelf life significantly increases your risk of eye infections and other related issues.

What if I have unused contacts that are expired?

If you’re concerned about wasting contact lenses that will expire soon, wear your contacts in order of oldest to newest, as long as none are past their expiration date.

This method of use means that older lenses won’t be forgotten or discarded because they’ve expired.

How do you know that a contact lens is expired?

The best way to determine if your contact lenses have expired is to check the packaging. If you wear expired contact lenses, your eyes may burn, become red, or cause cloudy vision while wearing the lenses.

How often do contact lenses need to be replaced?

Daily disposable contact lenses are replaced every day, while disposable contact lenses are replaced every two weeks. Traditional contact lenses are replaced every month or quarterly. However, if your contacts are expired, you should not wear them. It is essential to visit your eye doctor to order new ones.

How long can you use contact solution after it expires?

You should never use multipurpose contact solution past its expiration date. After it expires, the solution becomes contaminated, which increases the risk of developing serious eye infections, vision loss, and even blindness.

How long do contacts last in case?

Contact lenses can be left in a tightly closed case with solution for up to 30 days. Soaking them in solution does not extend the wear time.

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6 Cited Research Articles
  1. Focusing on contact lens safety, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 2019, https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/focusing-contact-lens-safety
  2. Types of contact lenses, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 2018, https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/contact-lenses/types-contact-lenses
  3. Decorative Contact Lenses for Halloween and More, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 2019, https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/contact-lenses/decorative-contact-lenses-halloween-and-more
  4. Estimated burden of keratitis, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6345a3.htm?s_cid=mm6345a3_w 
  5. Fast facts, Healthy contact lens wear and care, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018, https://www.cdc.gov/contactlenses/fast-facts.html
  6. Six Steps to Avoid Contact Lens Infections, American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2020, https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/contact-lens-related-eye-infections
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