Expired Contact Lenses
While some lenses expire within 24 hours, others are good for a year or more. Learn what to do when your prescription expires.
Contact lens prescriptions have expiration dates, just like all other prescriptions. The expiration date is generally one to two years from the date the contact lenses were prescribed (unless your eye doctor believes that a short-term prescription is necessary for your eyes), and you should discard any remaining supply after its expiration date. If your eye care professional issues a contact lens prescription for less than one year, he or she will explain why this is necessary, and will keep medical records indicating the reason.
When your prescription expires, you won’t be able to buy more lenses until you get an updated prescription, so as that date is approaching you should set up an appointment. Your eyes and vision change over time, and your requirements for optical correction change accordingly, so you need to see your doctor periodically in order to make sure your eyes aren’t in need of a new prescription.
Expiration Date Extensions
Your eye doctor may extend your contact lens prescription past its expiration date without completing another eye examination, but the AOA (American Optometric Association) and the CLAO (Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists) recommend routine follow-ups for all healthy contact-lens patients on a six- to twelve-month basis. Therefore, don’t be surprised if your eye doctor will want to see you at least once a year before renewing your contact lens prescription. If you need a short extension, however, your eye doctor may issue one.
Prescription Expiration Dates That Differ From Lens Boxes
All manufacturers of contact lenses are required by law to include a recommended replacement schedule in their package inserts, fitting guide booklets, and in some cases on the packaging itself. These recommendations provide a reference point, but because each patient is different you should always follow your doctor’s advice.
Proteins, calcium, lipids, and other substances that are found naturally in your tears can begin to build up on your lenses over time. It is therefore important to replace your contact lenses frequently in order to prevent discomfort, dryness, blurred vision, or allergic reactions from these deposit build-ups.
Daily disposables allow you to put fresh lenses in daily, eliminating the need for daily cleaning and disinfecting. This can be slightly more expensive than using extended-wear lenses, but the simple fact that you put new lenses in every morning and throw them away at night eliminates any worry about wearing them past their expiration date. Besides, the cost of the one-day disposables will be partially offset by the savings that accrue from avoiding the purchase of contact lens supplies—solutions, cases, etc.
Extended-wear contact lenses should be replaced weekly, biweekly, or monthly (depending on the type of lenses you have), regardless of how comfortable they still are, or how well they still work. Unlike daily disposables, these types of lenses chances are prone to buildup of calcium, lipids, and other substances. Although these lenses are safe enough for overnight wear, it’s important to remember that the longer your lenses are exposed to the tears in your eyes, the quicker the build up will form. Consult with your eye care practitioner about whether sleeping in your contact lenses is advisable.
Even if you’re following your care instructions perfectly, keep in mind that cleaning and disinfecting solutions are not 100% effective, and do not eliminate all build-up. You can ask your eye doctor for a recommendation for cleaning and disinfecting solutions, but discarding these lenses at the time your eye care professional recommends is best.