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Do Eye Drops Expire?

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A man holding his eye open to put eye drops in.

Do Eye Drops Expire?

If you know how to properly use them, eye drops can help relieve pain, discomfort, and fight infections. It’s important to know why you might benefit from using eye drops, what type of eye drops might work for you, and how to take care of them to ensure they’re useful for a long time.

Did you know eye drops can expire? Or how using them improperly can cause injury? Your eye doctor can help you understand how eye drops and other treatments can benefit your long term eye health, including getting relief for dry, painful eye conditions.

How Do Eye Drops Work?

Some eye drops are helpful when your eyes can’t produce enough moisture on their own. You may also need eye drops if your eyes are infected and require medicated drops for relief. Several factors can cause eye dryness and irritation:

Some eye drops, often referred to as artificial tears, help lubricate your eyes and simulate your tear film to protect the eye surface. These types of eye drops are helpful when you’re experiencing symptoms of dry eye disease and need relief. 

How to Use Eye Drops

Using eye drops is a straightforward process you can usually do by yourself at home. If you don’t feel comfortable using eye drops by yourself, you can talk to your doctor to find a solution that works for you. 

To use eye drops safely and effectively:

  • Make sure you wash and sanitize your hands before using eye drops to reduce the risk of infection. 
  • Make sure the dropper is clean, and be careful it doesn’t touch your eye.
  • Tilt your head back and gently use your index finger to slightly pull down the skin below your eye to create a pocket.
  • Look up and place the dropper above your eye. Squeeze one drop into the pocket you created with your lower eyelid.
  • Don’t blink or touch your eyes. Slowly close your eyes and keep them gently shut for 3 minutes.

Whether you’re using prescription eye drops from your doctor or over-the-counter artificial tears, it’s essential to understand how to use them safely. Taking precautionary steps like washing your hands and taking care of your eye drops can reduce your chances of infection or other complications.

Taking Care of Eye Drops

Unopened eye drops usually expire 1-2 years following their manufacturing date. Generally, eye drops contain preservatives to help keep them safe to use after opening the bottle. However, you should dispose of any unused eye drops 30 days after you first opened the bottle. However, there are some cases where eye drops will expire more quickly because they are preservative free or haven’t been properly cared for. 

You should never use eye drops after they’ve expired. Using expired eye drops can lead to irritation, inflammation, and infection. To reduce the risk of prematurely expiring your eye drops, make sure you:

  • Reduce direct sun exposure: leaving your eye drops out in the sun can be harmful. Too much sunlight can overheat the solution and cause the chemical ingredients to degrade.
  • Don’t leave eye drops in your car: your vehicle can get hot, especially when parked in the sun, and cause the same issues as direct sun exposure. Even during the colder months, freezing temperatures can damage eye drops.
  • Keep your eye drops in a cool, dry place: a medicine cabinet in your bathroom or a bedside table drawer are good places to store your eye drops for ease of use and reduce their risk of damage.
A man holding his eye open to put eye drops in.

Saline Eye Wash vs. Artificial Tear Eye Drops

Saline eye wash is an effective solution to remove foreign particles or substances from your eye. Artificial Tear eye drops provide lubrication and relief for discomfort from dry eyes or mild seasonal allergies.

There are two ways to use saline eye wash effectively to provide quick relief:

  • Using the same process as you would for eye drops, position the tip of the bottle near the eye and flush your eyes with as much eye wash as you need to remove the foreign particles or substance from the eye.
  • Using an eye cup, fill half the cup with eye wash and place it on your eye. Tilt your head back and move your eye around to let the solution wash over all parts of your eye

Both saline eye wash and artificial tear eye drops can provide relief for discomfort. Your doctor can help you find solutions to work with your lifestyle, health needs, and comfort level.

Part of Your Eye Health

Living in a dry and windy place like Utah increases your chances of needing artificial tear eyedrops. Understanding how eye drops and saline eye wash can help you manage eye irritation is useful, but your overall eye health is important as well.

Treating eye irritation and dryness can only help so much if you don’t understand what’s causing it. Booking an eye exam helps your doctor get a better picture of your eye health, and gets you answers to your eye health questions. We’re here  for your eye care needs. You can book an appointment at our locations in Perry or Morgan in Utah in just a couple of minutes.

Written by Dr. Paul Reed

Dr. Paul Reed is a Utah native. However, he spent his teenage years in a small Kansas farming town. In his youth, Dr. Reed developed his desire to become an optometrist when, after getting his first pair of glasses, he could see the leaves on the trees. After receiving his undergraduate degree from BYU, Dr. Reed attended the University of Houston where he completed his Doctor of Optometry in 1998 and received National Eye Institute Research awards, clinical awards, and academic scholarships. Following his graduation, Dr. Reed went through the rigorous process of becoming a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry. He is a member of the American Optometric Association and the American Academy of Optometry. When he is not helping patients, Dr. Reed enjoys spending time with his wife and three children, mountain biking, hiking, camping, motorcycling, working on old cars, and building things.

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