You often hear of eye drops, their many uses, risks, and benefits. But what are they? Well, these are saline solutions which work in wetting the eyes and alleviating symptoms related to redness.

In some cases, they work in treating eye issues. Your doctor can recommend the use of eye drops to treat a myriad of eye problems.

How should you use eye drops?

Do you know how to use eye drops? If not, here is a detailed guide on how to do so, ensuring that you reap their full benefits.

First, you need to wash your hands with warm water and soap. Doing this gets rid of any disease-causing microorganism on your skin. Make sure that you do not touch anything else other than the eye drops bottle after this.

Proceed to check if the dropper is in good shape such that it has no chips or cracks. Where these are present, you need to get another dropper, which you should sterilize. Using non-sterile equipment can infect your eyes.

Note that you should not allow the dropper tip to touch anything, including your fingers. Touching it against your face or another surface can transfer germs. These would end up in the drops, thus risking your eye health.

You want to keep your eye open when administering the drops. That way, you do not shut it midway and waste the drop. You would have to repeat the process and can end up using more medicine than is necessary. Also, doing away with another drop can cause underdosing, which also has adverse effects.

You cannot trust that you will keep your eyes open without some help. Thus, use a clean hand to pull down the lower eyelid. You can do this using your index finger. The essence of this is to create a pocket into which you can administer the eye drops for extensive coverage. Tilt your head back a little to allow for easy dropping of the medicine.

You can now use the other hand to hold the dropper with the tip facing down. If you like, you can rest this hand on your forehead or nose bridge. It will give you an easy time during the release of the drops. Make sure that the dropper tip does not touch the eyes or any other surface.

Once you are comfortable in that position, tilt your head further back and administer an eye drop. You will do this by squeezing the dropper gently. The drop should fall into the pocket created by your index finger. Proceed to lift off that finger, allowing the eye to close. Shut your eye for the next two to three minutes as you tilt your head forward. Do not blink or squeeze your eyelids during this time, as this can affect the absorption.

Locate the tear duct and using a finger, gently squeeze it to add some pressure. After the two minutes pass, you can wipe out any liquid on your face using a clean tissue.

If you need more than one drop per eye, wait at least five minutes after administering the first one. Again, repeat the process outlined above. After you finish using the drops, replace the cap on the dropper, ensuring you do not touch the dropper with any surface.

Your hands will likely have come into contact with the meds. Proceed to wash them to avoid consuming the drugs.

Your doctor will give you instructions as to how often you should use the drops. Make sure that you use the given number of drops required and at the right times. Also, ensure that the drops are out of reach of children.

Do eye drops expire?

An expiry date refers to a time when the active ingredients in a pharmaceutical product lose their efficiency. It could also refer to a time when those ingredients become toxic to the user. It is different from a ‘best before’ date. In the case of the latter, you can still use the product if it appears okay. That does not hold for eye drops. Once they expire, you need to throw them out. And to answer the question, yes, eye drops can expire.

Once this expiry happens, the active ingredients lose their power. Using them at this point will not offer you the alleviation you need. In some cases, the degraded ingredients could irritate or harm the eyes. The preservatives in the eye drops at this point are no longer active. As such, microbial growth can take place, risking your eye health.

Why you shouldn’t use expired eye drops

Unless you have used the drops by mistake, you should not administer them to your eyes past the expiration date. You may think that you are saving cash. In truth, you could be damaging your eyes. Here are the reasons why:

Reduced efficiency

As we covered under the uses of eye drops, these meds work in alleviating symptoms associated with various eye conditions. You thus need them to work for you to experience some relief. And you get this comfort from the active ingredients in the drops.

Some manufacturers use preservatives in their drops. Preservatives work in keeping the formulations sterile for 28 days from the date of opening. After this, the drops no longer have a line of defense.

When you take out the dropper and administer the drops, you expose the formulation in the bottle to oxygen. This exposure can lead to instability in the formulation such that it evaporates at a high rate. Over time, the proportions of active to inactive ingredients change. As such, the drops will not work as they should.

Where you are using the eye drops to treat conditions such as dry eyes or glaucoma, ineffectiveness works against you. The drops may either not work or work so little that it has little effect on the eye condition. The result is that the drops take longer to alleviate the condition. Also, they could worsen it over time.

This ineffectiveness is present in both prescription and over the counter drugs. Keep in mind that they will expire at some point and work with this in mind.

Eye irritation

It would not help much if you used eye drops on eyes only for the formulation to irritate your eyes. Yet, this is possible when you use expired eye drops. It owes to the instability or weakness of eye drops with exposure to the environment. It can happen with any formulation, regardless of how long the drops have passed the expiry date.

Once the meds change, you should not use them on your eyes. They could have higher levels of additives that could irritate the eye surface. Continued irritation can lead to eye damage over time.

Chemical composition is likely to take effect on the date of expiry. However, in some cases, it takes place much earlier than this. It could point to the storage conditions in which you have kept the drops. You can tell that there has been an adverse change in the drops if they change their color. It presents as oxygen breaks down the ingredients in the formula.

The leaflet that comes with the drops should indicate the color of the drops. If you notice a change in color, toss out the drops and consult your doctor. Using them as they are can lead to irritation, inflammation, swelling, and redness in the eyes.

Microbial growth

Where do bacteria like to live? Here is an answer: moist environments. And your eyes are wet at all times, even when you have dry eye. Thus, they make suitable breeding grounds for bacteria. You must keep your eyes safe from such microorganisms. That’s why doctors will advise you not to touch your eyes with non-sterile items.

Also, when applying drops, we mentioned that the dropper should not come into contact with the eye.

What happens when the dropper touches the eyes? Well, the dropper is likely to pick up fluids with bacteria. Some of this may end up in the main solution. That should not be a problem as long as the eye drops are sterile, and the expiry date is yet to pass.

However, when the solution expires, it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria, which multiply with ease. At the time of expiry, preservatives take a backseat as they lose their effectiveness. The solution ends up contaminated and is not fit for use.

If you use such a solution in your eyes, what you will do is introduce an infection to them. Eye infections can be very severe, and they often call for urgent medical attention. Without these interventions, the infections spread and could affect other parts of the body. Furthermore, they could affect other parts of the eyes, thereby affecting your vision. Signs of infection include itching, swelling, and inflammation.

On this note, you should also be careful as to how you use the dropper. You should not use a non-sterile dropper in the administration of drops. If it has touched any surface, it requires sterilization; else it could carry bacteria and infect you.

What should you know?

Eye drops will reach their date of expiry, based on what the manufacturer indicates on the bottle. However, other factors can affect how soon they expire. These include changes in temperature and exposure to air and light. Given that they come in liquid form, they are at more risk of going bad as compared to solid meds.

The shelf life is all about how fast the active ingredients in medicine break down. It thus differs from one product to the other. You will find, though, that eye drops have pretty more or less the same shelf lives. You can ensure that you get the most out of your eye drops by storing them as recommended by the manufacturer.

Also, you should not transfer the drops from the original container. Doing so not only exposes them to the elements, but you also run the risk of contamination. If the dropper raptures or is no longer in good shape, you are better off getting other eye drops.

Ensure that you keep the eye drops in their outer packing such that they do not come into contact with direct sunlight. That is a factor that could hasten their breakdown.

The manufacturer will state the conditions of storage. In most cases, you should keep the eye drops in cool and dry places that are below 25 degrees Celsius. Some manufacturers might state that you should keep the drops refrigerated. The beauty of this is that you can feel when the drop touches the eye, alerting you that you did not miss the mark.

While the expiry states that the eye drops will go bad on a given date, that is not fixed. You should thus be on the lookout for any changes in consistency and hue of the drops. Where any are present, proceed to discard the drops and get new ones.

You should be careful with the expiry dates, ensuring that you check them before administering the drug.

Disposal of expired eye drops

All this while, we have covered the need for discarding expired bottles. But how should you do this? You could put the bottles in your trash as they have minimal adverse effects on the environment.

They are also not likely to harm people’s health. Alternatively, you could present them to a pharmacy that accepts expired drugs. They could even walk you through suitable disposal methods.


Expired drops are not only chemically unstable, but they could also be less effective. The changes taking place in the formulation could be harmful and could cause more damage to your eyes. Moreover, using such drops puts you at risk of bacterial infection.

Thus, if the eye drops have an odd appearance, you should not use them. Instead, you should discard them or consult your doctor for advice on the same. For expired drops, discarding is the only option.