Yes, all contact lenses have an expiration date, usually between one and four years from the date of manufacture. It’s important not to use expired contacts, even if the package has never been opened. 

In addition to the lenses themselves, contact lens prescriptions also expire—usually in one to two years, depending on the state you live in. 

It’s true: Many of us have turned a blind eye to the date on the cookie box once or twice. But when it comes to contact lenses, expiration dates shouldn’t be ignored. In this article, we’ll explain why. We’ll also discuss where to find the expiration date and what to do if you’ve used expired contacts. 

Why Do Contact Lenses Expire?

It’s actually not the lens itself that expires, but the saline solution it’s packed in. All types of contact lenses are manufactured in a sterile environment. They’re packed in saline solution and sealed, often in air-tight “blister packs.”

After the expiration date (set by the manufacturer), the saline solution inside the package can deteriorate. Additionally, the blister pack’s seal can lose its grip, allowing the package to be contaminated with bacteria.

The deterioration of the package can be hard to notice. So, it’s important to use the expiration date instead of examining the package for breaks.

How Do You Know if Your Contacts Are Expired?

Infographic showing the expiration date on a contact lens box and blister pack

You can usually find the contact lens expiration date on the box your contacts came in and on each blister pack. It’s often next to or right below the date of manufacture and the lot number. 

Sometimes, the expiration date is listed with the month and year of expiration (like “May 2024”). Or it could be in this format: YYYY–MM (like “2024–05”). If the expiration date has worn off the package, it’s best to throw it away. (Remember: When in doubt, throw it out!)

Note: Double-check that you’re looking at the contact lens expiration date, especially if you’re looking on the box. It can be easy to confuse the expiration date with the date the contacts were packed or manufactured.

Can You Wear Expired Contact Lenses?

No way! Wearing expired contacts is bad. Full stop. 

We know how it goes: You’ve been wearing your current pair of contacts for a month, so they need to be discarded. But you forgot to order new contacts, and it’ll take a few days before they get sent. You reach for an unopened, expired set of contacts in the back of a bathroom cabinet. You’re considering wearing those…just until the new ones arrive. 

Please don’t do this. Using expired contacts, even if you think they’re completely sealed, is unsafe and can damage your eyes. 

What Happens if You Wear Expired Contacts

So, what are the effects of wearing expired contact lenses? Bacteria can enter the package and multiply. This can cause blurred vision, irritated eyes, and eye infections

In some cases, eye infections can lead to ulcers of the cornea. An ulcer can damage your eyesight permanently and could even cause blindness.

What To Do if You’ve Worn Expired Contacts

If you’ve worn expired contact lenses, don’t panic. Just follow these steps:

  1. Remove your contacts and throw them away. 
  2. If you feel any hint of irritation or discomfort in your eyes, contact your eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam. If it’s an emergency, see an eye care practitioner right away.
  3. Follow your eye doctor’s instructions for any treatment.
  4. Check to see if you have any other old contact lenses, and throw those away, too. While you’re at it, throw away any contact solution that’s past the expiration date.
  5. Toss any old contact lens cases, which can harbor bacteria. We recommend changing the case each time you open a new bottle of solution, or at the very least once a month.
  6. When you get new lenses, check the expiration date and talk to the seller if you have questions about it. And always purchase your contacts from a reputable seller.
Two smiling optometrists in white coats

Irritated eyes?

Get an eye exam. Our expert optometrists can check for signs of infection and recommend treatment if needed.

Contact Lens Care Is a Necessary Part of Eye Care

For contact lens wearers, proper contact lens care is extremely important for eye health. This includes following the right steps for cleaning, handling, and storing your contacts. Always follow all instructions from your eye doctor and the lens manufacturer, including abiding by expiration dates.


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