Using Eye Drops After Their Expiration Date

by Lance Kugler, MD

Picture this: Your eyes are uncomfortably dry. In fact, you may have been wondering, “Do I have chronic dry eye?” You dig through your medicine cabinet, searching for that half-empty bottle of eye drops that you swore you had. Good news – you find it! As you twist off the lid, you notice the minuscule text on the back of the container that reads, “EXP: MAR 2013.” Six years expired. A few drops won’t hurt, right? Not so fast!

The Risk of Using Expired Eye Drops

Expiration dates are not suggestions when it comes to medications, or in this case, eye drops. Using drops past their listed expiration date can lead to irritation, inflammation, and even an eye infection. The chemical compound of eye drops may change and lose potency over time. It is important to discard drops at the proper date to ensure no further usage and keep your eyes safe.

Bringing an old, used dropper near your eyes is also a risk factor for transferring unwanted germs to your eyes and allowing them to spread. This can lead to further irritation and a much higher chance for infections. The risk that comes along with using expired eye drops is not worth the health of your eyes.

When Over-the-Counter Eye Drops Aren’t Enough

For some, even an almost constant supply of drops or lubricants provides only the most fleeting relief. If this is the case for you, and you notice an increase in eye dryness and discomfort with seasonal changes, after prolonged contact lens wear, or computer use, you would be wise to be evaluated for dry eye syndrome. Dry eye syndrome is an ocular surface disease characterized by intense dryness, a scratchy feeling in the eyes, or a sensation of a foreign body in the eye.

The Causes of Dry Eye Syndrome

While all dry eye syndrome is irritating, not all cases are alike. There are actually two types of dry eye syndrome: aqueous deficient dry eye and evaporative dry eye. Aqueous deficient dry eye is caused by the eyes not producing enough tears to lubricate the eye. Evaporative dry eye occurs when tears evaporate too quickly off the eye’s surface.

Evaporative dry eye is the most common form of dry eye syndrome, accounting for roughly eight out of 10 of dry eye diagnoses. The tears evaporate too quickly because they do not contain enough of the natural oils secreted by the meibomian glands – small glands within the eyelid. The lack of these natural oils, called lipids, leads to the liquid tears not sticking to the surface long enough to keep the eye hydrated and comfortable. This lack of tear oil is often referred to as meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD).

I Think I Have Dry Eye. What’s Next?

If you think you may have dry eye syndrome, and no amount of over-the-counter drops is providing comfort, it’s time to seek help from the dry eye experts at Kugler Vision in Omaha, Nebraska. Here, we specialize in all the latest dry eye evaluation and treatment options, including LipiFlow treatment for meibomian gland dysfunction and BlephEx treatment for blepharitis and dry eye. We also carry products that have been found to provide comfort for dry eye, including moist heat therapy masks, special PRN omega-3 supplements to boost lipid production, and drops designed to help hydrate dry, uncomfortable eyes.

If you’re currently wearing contact lenses and experiencing dry eye, you may be suffering additionally from contact lens intolerance (CLI) – a common and often undiagnosed issue that can progress over time, making it nearly impossible to wear contacts for any extended period without eye discomfort. If you think you may have CLI, booking an evaluation is the best place to start so that you can find a vision solution to get rid of those irritating contact lenses.

Do you find yourself reaching for the eye drops more frequently? The abundant need for eye drops or artificial tears can be a sign that you may be suffering from Dry Eye Syndrome, take the self test by clicking the button below now to assess if this may be you.

Dry Eye

Keeping Your Eyes Healthy

Before you put those drops in, always check the expiration date. An expired bottle of drops will likely not give you the relief you’re seeking, but an increased infection risk instead.

If your current drops just aren’t doing the job, give the Kugler Vision experts a call at 402-558-2211 or book a consultation online. We’re here to help.

kugler vision doctor lance kugler

Lance Kugler, MD, is a specialist in vision correction surgery and CEO of Kugler Vision. A proud Omaha native, he is passionate about improving lives through clear vision. Dr. Kugler serves on several national boards, and his practice is recognized internationally as a center of excellence. Dr. Kugler is one of the original founders of the Refractive Surgery Alliance, an international organization comprised of over 350 of the world’s leading vision correction surgeons; he also served as its first president. In 2019, Dr. Kugler was selected as a TEDx speaker, and delivered a talk in Omaha about the worldwide epidemic of nearsightedness and refractive solutions. Dr. Kugler is an associate professor of Refractive Surgery at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Truhlsen Eye Institute, has been published in many medical journals, and participates in numerous clinical studies to advance the field of vision correction surgery. Dr. Kugler and his wife are proud parents to five active kids. When he has a spare moment, he enjoys skiing, tennis, travel, and fine coffee.

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Lance Kugler, MD

Hi Bobbie–

Thanks for reading! It is not recommended to use drops past their expiration date– I’d recommend throwing out those two bottles that expired 7/18 and getting new ones.


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