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How long can you keep contacts in solution?

Dried contact lenses in case

Generally, you can safely store contact lenses in fresh multipurpose disinfecting solution in a tightly closed contact lens case for up to 30 days.

Before putting contacts in your eyes, clean and disinfect them with fresh contact solution. If you feel any unusual irritation, it's best to throw the old contacts away and start with a new pair.

That’s the general rule — some eye care professionals may recommend different guidelines. Talk to your eye care professional and check the patient instruction booklet that came with your contact lenses and contact solution to see what they recommend.

Can contacts become contaminated in solution?

Yes, over a period of time, it’s possible contact lenses can become contaminated with microorganisms — even if they have been stored properly in contact lens solution after being used. With time, contact lens solution can lose its effectiveness and germs can enter or grow in the case.

You can reduce your risk of eye infection by discarding lenses that have been stored in solution for more than 30 days. The best plan is to follow the suggested replacement schedule of the lens, whether it's monthly, weekly or daily.

Soft lenses that sit in solution for a long time may eventually dry out if the solution evaporates. Dried-out lenses may be damaged, so don’t try to rehydrate and reuse them. It's best to throw them away and put in a fresh pair.

Gas permeable lenses also should be stored overnight in an appropriate lens care and disinfection solution. But if you aren't going to wear these lenses for a long period of time, gas permeable contacts can be safely stored in a dry case for months or longer. After storing gas permeable lenses, you should clean them and soak them overnight in fresh solution before placing them on your eyes.

SEE RELATED: Tips for contact lens wearers

Can I wear contacts that have been in solution for a long time?

If your monthly disposable soft contacts have been sitting in solution for less than 30 days, you can clean and disinfect them with new solution before putting them in your eyes. 

If they’ve been sitting in solution for several months to a year or longer, it’s safest to throw them away and start over with a fresh pair. 

How often should I change contact solution in my contact lens case?

If your contacts are sitting in a case, you should change the disinfecting solution at least every 30 days.

That’s the absolute minimum — it's best to discuss your contact lens care and storage with your eye care professional and follow the recommendations they provide.

How long do contacts last unopened?

Soft contact lens packages are stamped with an expiration date, and they’re good through that month and year as long as the packaging stays intact. 

The expiration date on soft contact lenses is typically about four years from the date of manufacture. After that time, the seal on the package can degrade, potentially exposing the sterile lens to contamination. 

If you have lenses that are past their expiration date, you should discard them.

Do I need contact lens solution?

If you wear contact lenses, you may need contact lens solution to rinse, clean and disinfect your lenses. 

If you wear daily disposable contacts that must be discarded after each use, you don’t necessarily need contact lens solution. 

However, if you have sensitive eyes, you may want to buy sterile saline solution to rinse your lenses before putting them in your eyes. Daily disposable lenses should not be cleaned or disinfected. 

Ask your eye care professional what kind of lens solutions and cleaners are best for your lenses.

How can you store contact lenses without solution?

You can’t safely store soft contact lenses without the right contact lens disinfecting solution. 

If you don’t have solution available, you’ll need to buy some or dispose of your contacts and use a fresh pair next time.

The only safe way to store soft contacts is in a contact case fully covered by fresh contact lens disinfecting solution. You should never store contact lenses in water (neither bottled, distilled nor tap), homemade saline solution, saline nasal spray, eye drops or any other liquid not intended for disinfecting and storing contact lenses. 

It should go without saying, but most contact lens patient instruction booklets also warn against using saliva to store your lenses. Also, never store your contacts in a drinking glass, a jar, or anything other than a clean contact lenses case (which should be replaced every three months).

Storing your contacts incorrectly can lead to serious corneal infections and even blindness.

SEE RELATED: Acanthamoeba keratitis: What contact lens wearers need to know

Should you change contact solution every day?

It’s important to use fresh contact solution every time you disinfect and store your contact lenses. Never reuse or “top off” contact solution that’s already in your contact case. 

If you store your contacts for an extended period of time, be sure to clean and disinfect them with fresh contact solution before putting them in your eyes.

Leaving contacts in solution for too long is risky, so follow the same rule with your contacts that you’d use for food safety: When in doubt, throw it out. Then reach for a fresh pair of contacts to keep your eyes safe and your vision sharp.

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