June 3, 2021

Safe Eye Drop Use: Do Eye Drops Expire?


Read the full NZ Herald article here

Have you ever reached for a bottle of eye drops in your bathroom cupboard without checking the expiry date? Not sure whether this date is a general guideline or a strict rule? Here, we answer your burning questions, so you can play it safe when it comes to eye drop use.  

Eye drop expiry date

The expiration date on eye drop packages refers to the shelf life of the product. Up until the printed date, you are safe to open the eye drops and use them. However, once you do open the bottle, you need to follow a different set of instructions, as explained below. 

Eye drop discard date


There are usually further usage instructions on an eye drop packet that explains when to discard the bottle after opening. This is different for each type of eye drop based on the active ingredients and preservatives present in the formula. 

Single-use eyedrop vials should be discarded after one use, as they usually do not contain preservatives. For multi-use eye drop bottles, usage timeframes can range from a month to six months, so it is best to check for specific instructions about when to discard the product after opening. 

Wondering why eye drops have a discard date? Once the bottle is opened, the contents are exposed to oxygen. This causes the ingredients to degrade faster than when the pack was sealed, meaning that the ingredients may become less effective. Also, the longer a bottle has been open, the more chance it has been contaminated and may contain bacteria. You don’t want to be dropping a splash full of bacteria into your eyes as this can cause further irritation, so it’s best to stick to the instructions and discard any out of date eye drops. 

Pro tip: When you open a new multi-use eye drop bottle, write the date of opening on the packet/bottle so you know when it’s time to bin it.   

Storing eye drops

Storage is another important factor when it comes to safe eye drop use. Again, it’s best to read the instructions, as some eye drops will need to be stored in the fridge while some are fine at room temperature. If you are unsure, it is always best to store eye drops out of direct sunlight in a cool place. 

Choosing the right type of eye drops

There are many different types of eye drops out there, so it is important to get the right sort for the issue you are experiencing.  

For infection/surgery recovery: If you have an eye infection or have recently undergone laser eye surgery, make sure you have a prescription from your eye doctor for the right type of medical eye drops. 

For dry eyes: There are several types of over the counter eye drops you can pick up from the pharmacy for dry eyes. These are often referred to as artificial tears because they work in a similar way to real tears, by lubricating your eyes and keeping them moist. 

For red eyes: There are special eye drops you can buy that shrink blood vessels on the eye’s surface, which helps to diminish the appearance of redness. These types of drops should be used sparingly as your eyes can become dependent on them. If you notice that your eyes are often red and irritated, it’s a good idea to get them checked out by an eye doctor as there may be an underlying issue that needs to be sorted, rather than just masking the symptoms.  

For allergies: To combat the itchy, watery eyes that come with seasonal allergies, eye drops can be used which contain an antihistamine. This will ease the itchiness and help you stop rubbing your eyes which can make matters worse. 

How to use eye drops correctly

In the video below, Re:Vision team member Olenka shows you how to administer eye drops correctly, whether you are putting them in yourself or having someone help you with the process.   


Professional eye care from Re:Vision

If you are experiencing eye irritation, it’s best to see a specialist so you can get the correct diagnosis and treatment. Our experienced team can help with a range of concerns including keratoconus and cataracts. Get in touch with us or book a consultation online today!  

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