Eye drops are a type of medication that people use to treat various eye conditions, such as dry eyes or pink eyes. They work in many ways, including reducing inflammation or lubricating the eyes.
Since eye drops can come in various forms, prescription or over-the-counter, it’s best to visit your eye doctor for an eye exam to determine the right eye drops for your needs. The safe use of eye drops is vital to maintain eye health. Like other medical products, eye drops come with an expiry date.
Using eye drops past the expiry date can lead to reduced efficacy and increased risk of infection.
Understanding Expiration Dates
Eye drops, like other pharmaceutical products, are required to have an expiration date printed on the packaging. This date indicates the manufacturer’s guarantee of the product’s safety and effectiveness when stored under appropriate conditions.
Beyond this date, the chemical composition of the eye drops may start to change, potentially affecting their efficacy and safety profile. Apart from the expiry date, opening a bottle of eye drops for the first time breaks the sterile seal. For this reason, it’s best to open the bottle only when you need to use the eye drops.
Types of Eye Drops
You can get prescription and non-prescription eye drops in several types to help a wide range of conditions, from dry eyes to allergies, infections, and glaucoma:
- Antihistamine: Antihistamine eye drops can alleviate allergy-related symptoms, such as watery eyes, itchiness, and swelling.
- Lubricant: Lubricant eye drops or artificial tears can provide short-term relief and moisture to the eyes when they feel dry and help alleviate eye strain.
- Decongestants: Decongestant or whitening eye drops help reduce redness by shrinking the blood vessels in the eyes.
- Steroids: These help alleviate inflammation caused by various eye conditions.
- Antibiotics: These help with eye infections.
- Dilating: These eye drops help dilate the pupils in adult and senior eye exams.
- Eye drops for glaucoma: These help lower eye pressure and drain fluid from the eye.
Risks of Using Expired Eye Drops
Not paying attention to the expiry dates on eye drops can pose certain risks to your eye health, such as becoming contaminated.
Eye drops that contain preservatives help slow the growth of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Over time, the preservatives in the eye drops may degrade, leading to a higher risk of contamination, and contamination can lead to an eye infection.
Some eye drops with preservatives may expire quicker once opened. And since preservative-free eye drops have a higher risk of contamination, you should follow the package instructions on when to discard them.
Single-use vials that don’t have preservatives are typically short-lived and should be used at most 24 hours after opening. If you are unsure about eye drop usage, speak to your eye doctor.
Moreover, expired eye drops may not work correctly. The active ingredients in the drops might lose their potency, resulting in decreased effectiveness, adverse side effects, or worsening symptoms.
Expired Eye Drops Symptoms
Since our eyes are sensitive organs, any compromise in the sterility or efficacy of eye drops could lead to worsening of current symptoms or symptoms of an infection, such as:
- Burning sensation
- Blurry vision
- Light sensitivity
If you experience any of these symptoms after using expired eye drops, seek medical attention from your eye care professional and immediately stop using the eye drops.
Safe Use of Eye Drops
Using expired eye drops can compromise eye health and vision. However, there are ways to use your eye drops safely and prevent contamination:
- Always check the expiry date on the eye drop packaging before use.
- Always store your eye drops according to manufacturers’ recommendations. Generally in a cool, dry place and away from heat, moisture, and direct sunlight. Avoid storing eye drops in the bathroom, near windows, or in your car.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before and after using eye drops.
- Avoid touching the dropper tip on your eyes, hands, or other surface to prevent contaminating it.
- Don’t share your eyedrops.
- Don’t use eye drops with contact lenses unless your eye doctor approves.
- Discontinue using your eye drops if you experience any unusual symptoms.
- Visit your eye doctor for regular eye exams to monitor your eye health and receive guidance on the appropriate use of eye drops.
Eye Drop Safety & Eye Health
Regarding your eyes, prioritizing safety and effectiveness should be non-negotiable. Taking care of your eye drops and avoiding using them after the expiration date is vital for good eye health. While there may be exceptional situations, it’s best to err on the side of caution and use fresh and adequately stored eye drops. Speak to your eye doctor about best practices for eye health, or book an appointment with Urban Optique if you experience symptoms or vision problems.