Do contacts "go bad"?
August 8, 2005 11:44 AM   Subscribe

Do contacts "go bad"? I've got three pairs of soft contacts that I bought a year ago. I've never worn them, and they're still sealed in the little jars of solution that they came in. Is there any reason that I shouldn't start wearing these contacts now?
posted by gd779 to Health & Fitness (11 answers total)
There should be an expiration date on the bottle; which is usually a couple (or few) years from now.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 11:49 AM on August 8, 2005

I'm interested in this as well as I have quite a few soft contacts in similar packaging. They were set to expire at pretty much the date I was suppose to go get some more. I still have a lot left, I'm waiting for an answer too. I did do a trial run about 3 months ago and they seemed fine, but my eyes itched horribly, which I account to no wearing any for a long time.
posted by geoff. at 11:51 AM on August 8, 2005

They do have expiration dates, but as long as the packaging is still sealed and there is no evidence of any leakage, they should be fine. They're just little pieces of plastic, essentially, so it would take a hella long time for them to start deteriorating.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 11:53 AM on August 8, 2005

Your eye doctor would probably be able to tell you whether they're still good or not.
posted by JanetLand at 11:57 AM on August 8, 2005

Back when I wore contacts, I had a pair that I left for YEARS in a drawer to the point where the solution dried up and they had turned into crusty little shriveled shards of plastic. Being young and heedless, I rewet them and wore them - and they were perfectly fine.
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:01 PM on August 8, 2005

Your eye doctor would probably be able to tell you whether they're still good or not.

Well, he'll (she'll) tell you that its time for a checkup (since contact lens prescriptions only last 1-2 years). And I would agree, since lenses are actually touching your eyes and a checkup only costs about 70-100 bucks (a small price to pay for something so important as healthy eyes).
posted by SeizeTheDay at 12:02 PM on August 8, 2005

I've worn contacts that had been sealed in solution for more than a year with no ill effects. IANAD, but I think if your solution has not dried up, they'll be fine.
posted by keatsandyeats at 12:26 PM on August 8, 2005

I am pretty sure the expiration date has more to do with how long the packaging can prevent organisms from growing than anything else. If they are expired, a good dip in sanitizing solution should take care of anything, not that there probably is anything.
posted by caddis at 12:40 PM on August 8, 2005

Do you really want to take a chance with these? We are talking about your eyes, even the smallest problem could have disastrous effects.
posted by oddman at 5:13 PM on August 8, 2005

Momus lost the use of an eye due to some kind of amoebic infection transferred from a contact lens. In the documentary I saw (about parasites in general) the doctors surmised that he may have had micro-abrasions on the surface of his eye that allowed the bacteria to enter into the eye itself, making themselves at home, having loads of parthogenetic babies in the vitreous fluid and ruining his vision.
posted by hifimofo at 8:04 PM on August 8, 2005

I've never worn them, and they're still sealed in the little jars of solution that they came in.

Still sealed and only a year old? I should hope they'd be fine, or else the contact lens manufacturing industry has a lot to answer for. Check the expiration date to be sure, and ask your eye doctor if you have one, but don't be bamboozled into thinking you need another checkup. Many states allow 2-year contact lense prescriptions; the ones that don't probably just have stronger eye doctor lobbies. Sure, the American Optometric Association recommends adults have their prescription checked every year, but they *would* recommend that, wouldn't they?

In general, I think there's room to be skeptical about the urgent need for yearly eye exams, since many eye doctors for years fought to limit consumer access to contact lens prescriptions and used a variety of underhanded methods to prevent consumers from getting additional pairs of contact lenses easily. It took a federal bill to force those eye doctors to stop withholding prescriptions from patients and open up the market. The fact that patients with eyeglasses have had that right since 1978 only serves to highlight the money issues involved. It was not a pretty fight for a while there.

That said, I had an eye exam a few months ago after a three year gap. Turns out my prescription didn't change, but I do feel better knowing it's now up-to-date. Bottom line: don't ever do what CunningLinguist did, but there's definitely some wiggle room in the situation you describe.
posted by mediareport at 11:03 PM on August 8, 2005

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