Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Never Use Expired Eye Drops

When was the last time you looked at the Expiration Date on your bottle of Eye Drops?

If you are like me, it’s the first thing you check when you get a new box. My problem is that I fail to check it once I’ve had them for awhile.

So if I forget, is it safe to use expired Eye Drops?

Eye Health Doctors agree preservatives in opened Eye Drops only keep them sterile for 28 days. Once that period is over, opened Eye Drops can lose potency and even become contaminated. Unopened Eye Drops can equally go bad after their expiration date, so Eye Doctors suggest tossing them out if they cross the expiration date.

Doctors cite these 5 Reasons Why It’s Unsafe to Use Expired Eye Drops:

  1. Loss of Potency
  2. Change in Chemical Composition
  3. Contamination
  4. Risk of Eye Infections
  5. Exposure to Bacteria Growth

In this post, I will be discussing the 5 Reasons why you should discard expired eye drops.

 

Why do Expiration Dates Exist? 

“Expiration dates are not a recommendation to a nurse administering medication, they are a mandate,” says Dr. Karen Smith, Doctorate of Nursing Practice.

Optometrist, Dr. Richard Hom, states, “the purpose of an Expiration Date on any medication or drug is to signify the sterility and safety of the drug for a period up to the expiration date.”

He also explains why Medical Practitioners do not recommend patients take Expired Medications.

“Since there are no tests past the stated period, no practitioner will suggest or recommend the use of any medication past its expiration,” states Dr. Hom.

Dr. Matheson Harris, Opthalmologist and Oculofacial Plastic Surgeon in Salt Lake City, agrees with Dr. Hom, “Although the expiration dates are usually arrived at arbitrarily, I don’t see a reason to ignore them as you only have your vision to lose if you place a defective or contaminated drop in your eye.”

Dr. Harris recommends, “If they are old, toss them out.”

Check out this video to get an understanding why Expiration Dates are important. 

 

#1 – Expired Eye Drops May Have Lost Their Effectiveness

Expiration dates are labeled on your eye drops to ensure potency and safety.

The UFS states, “Preservatives in Eye Drops can only ensure the lubricant is sterile 28 days after opening.

An opened bottle of expired Eye Drops can host, “bacterial growth” says Dr. Anne Sumers.

Dr. George Corrent, MD PhD in Opthalmology & Neurophysiology at Washington University says, “I would throw away any opened and used medications that have gone beyond their expiration date.”

 

Make sure you use your eye drops within 28 days, or 28 days before the expiration date.

 

#2 – Dr. Harris Says to Look for a “Change in Color” To Identify If Your Eye Drops Have Changed Chemical Composition

Once Eye Drops are opened or get closer to the expiration date, oxygen slowly breaks down the active and inactive ingredients inside. 

Expired Eye Drops can contain unstable ingredients which could lead to eye swelling, redness, irritation and inflammation.

To help identify if your Eye Drops have been compromised, Dr. Harris gives us this important advice. 

He states, “If your Eye Drops are not yet expired, but have changed color or are cloudy, toss them out.”

Dr. Smith agrees, “Certain compounds may not remain stable indefinitely in the solution.”

 

#3 – Dr. Anne Sumers Warns of Contamination in Expired Eye Drops 

“Eye Drops, once opened and used, risk being contaminated with the normal bacteria that live on your eyelids,” says Dr. Anne Sumers MD, “Most bottles of eye drops contain preservatives which limit bacterial growth.”

According to Dr. Sumers, “the older the bottle, the greater the chance that it has been contaminated, allowing the bacteria a longer time to grow.”

Dr. Sumers recommends, “a good rule of thumb is to throw away any opened bottle of eye drops after 3 months.”

 

#4 – Dr. Sumers Says Expired Eye Drops Can Expose Us to Infection

To avoid an eye infection, Dr. Summers recommends, “Never share eye drops – eye infections can be spread this way.”

 

Are expired eye drops safe to use? The answer is no.

 

#5 – Michele Dukinfield, RN Says Bacteria Can Grow on the Dropper – Putting Your Eyes at Risk

On the topic of Bacterial Growth, the UFS states, “After 28 days after opening, using the drops can cause serious damage to the eye as bacteria may have been introduced.”

Michele Dukinfield, RN, comments, “The second the surface of the dropper touches another surface, it picks up micro organisms. And transferring them into the eye is one of the most common ways to contract an infection.”

If the tip of your dropper has touched an unclean surface, discard immediately.

 

Preservatives and Eye Drops, Are All Preservatives Toxic?

Eye Drops are formulated with preservatives to ensure the sealed product is safe to use until the expiry date (also known as the shelf life).  Some preservatives and phosphates used in eye drops are toxic, but not all.

Opthalmic Surgeon, Dr. Manu Matthews claims, “it’s better to formulate eye drops without preservatives as long as you can assure the stability of the drug and prevent contamination in the drug’s container.”

Dr. Matthews lists both Toxic and Non-Toxic Preservatives used in Eye Drops for Human Cornea:

  1. BAK – Toxic
  2. Thiomersal – Toxic
  3. Oxyd – Toxic
  4.  Perborate – Non- Toxic
  5. Polyquad – Non- Toxic
  6. Comod – Non – Toxic
  7. Abak – Non – Toxic

In Dr. Matthews’ view, Eye Drops free of Preservatives and Phosphates may enhance protection of the ocular surface from “stress, cold, dryness and high osmolarity.” Although his view is compelling, it fails to provide a way to keep ingredients sterile; but it’s always good to know which preservatives to avoid!

 

Conclusion 

We all take eye health seriously, so it’s best to take all expiration dates seriously.

Here are 3 Takeaways from this article:

  1. Unopened Eye Drops are only effective up to their expiration date
  2. Opened Eye Drops only have 28 days to be used
  3. Expired Eye Drops carry a risk of contamination and bacterial exposure

I recommend taking a Sharpie and writing the last day you can use your Eye Drops to avoid confusion.

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Thank you for taking the time to read Your Eye Drops Just Expired, Is It Safe to Use Them?

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