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Can I Use Expired Eye Drops?

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You may use eye drops for a lot of reasons. Whether it’s for dry eyes or eye disease, when your optometrist recommends them, it’s a good idea to get the most out of them. However, many of us have encountered a bottle of eye drops buried in the depths of a medicine cabinet, wondering if they can still be used.

It may be tempting, but expired eye drops could be ineffective and, what’s worse, dangerous due to contaminants.

Eye Drops & Their Uses

Eye drops are a common way to deliver medication or relieve various eye conditions. From dryness to eye disease, eye drops are central to many treatment plans. Depending on what you’re trying to address, they could be prescribed by a doctor or bought over the counter.

Some of the many uses of eye drops are:

  • Dry eye relief
  • Eye infections
  • Allergy relief
  • Managing glaucoma
  • Treating conjunctivitis (pink eye)

Eye Drop Expiration Dates

Expiration dates are determined through rigorous testing conducted by the manufacturers and indicate when medication is expected to remain stable and effective. Of course, this date assumes you’ll store the drops properly, so it’s not a guarantee they’ll be good up to that date.

Also, eye drops are sealed by the manufacturer to keep contaminants from getting in. Once that seal is broken, there’s a risk of bacteria entering the bottle. Some eye drops have preservatives that can slow the growth of bacteria, viruses, and fungi, so they could potentially last longer.

If you have eye drops that don’t have preservatives, you should throw them away 24 hours after breaking the seal.

Once the expiration date has passed, there’s no guarantee that the eye drops are still safe or effective. Even if you find a bottle that appears closed, the seal could fail, and the expiration date takes this into account. So ultimately, it’s best not to risk using expired eye drops.

The Dangers of Expired Eye Drops

When stored and used correctly, eye drops should stay safe and effective. However, if you do use expired eye drops, you’re opening yourself up to the possibility of complications, such as:

  • Reduced effectiveness: Over time, the active ingredients in expired eye drops may degrade, making them less effective in addressing the intended eye condition. This could make your condition last longer or worsen since it’s not being treated.
  • Eye infections: Using expired eye drops may introduce harmful bacteria or viruses to your eyes, potentially leading to infections.
A woman wearing a lavender coloured sweater, holding her eye open to put eye drops in her eye

Proper Use of Eye Drops

Keeping your eye drops safe means storing them properly. You’ll need to follow the directions on the package or follow your optometrist’s recommendations since each drop has different storage directions. For example, some drops can be stored at room temperature, while others need to be kept in the fridge.

Follow your doctor’s instructions for when to use your eye drops. Putting in eye drops is relatively simple but should still be done carefully to avoid potential issues. Follow these steps:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly to minimize the risk of introducing bacteria or dirt to your eyes.
  2. Tilt your head backward or lie down to allow easy application and prevent the drops from rolling out.
  3. Gently pull down the lower eyelid to expose the eye’s surface and create a lip to catch the drops.
  4. Squeeze the recommended number of drops into the eye, which can be as little as one.
  5. Close the eye gently and keep it closed for up to a minute so the drops can spread evenly across the eye’s surface and be absorbed.

Eye Drop Hygiene

Avoid sharing eye drops with others. While this seems like a nice thing to do, it can increase the risk of infection. Your eye health is your responsibility, so ensuring you’re the only one who has used your dropper can prevent the spread of infections.

If you wear contact lenses, make sure whatever drops you use are compatible with your contacts. Some drops can be used while you’re wearing lenses, but others have chemicals that could damage them. If you’re ever unsure, you should remove your contacts before using eye drops. You can also ask your optometrist for eye drops that suit your lifestyle.

Throw out medicated eye drops after the recommended duration of use, even if they are not fully expired, as they may lose their effectiveness over time.

Protect Your Eye Health

It can be tempting not to let your eye drops go to waste. But using expired eye drops poses risks to your eye health. Instead, prioritize your eye health by using fresh, unexpired eye drops and following proper storage practices.

If you have any concerns or questions about what eye drops may work for you, reach out to us at Eye Rx. We also offer dry eye treatments that may help you rely less on eye drops and get more time enjoying life. Remember, healthy eyes are happy eyes!

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Written by Eye Rx

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