• How long can you use prescription eye drops after opening them?


    Question:

    How long can you use prescription eye drops after opening them?


    Answer:

    Unless otherwise noted in the package insert, eye drops should stay safe and effective until the expiration date if used and stored correctly. Once the sterile seal of the bottle is broken, there is concern for contamination, especially if the tip of the bottle touches your eye or any other surface. Most eye drops contain preservatives to slow the growth of bacteria, viruses and fungi and protect against infection from these organisms. These preservatives should prevent contamination at least until the expiration date of the medication regardless of when it was opened.

    But some eye drops are different and should be thrown away a specified number of days after opening. For example, preservative-free medications that come in individual vials have a much higher risk for contamination since there are no chemicals to prevent bacterial growth and should be thrown away 24 hours after opening. Other eye drops may contain preservatives but expire earlier once opened. The date is tied to how long a medication is expected to stay effective and contaminant-free. These types of eye drops—whether single- or multi-use—should include guidance for use and be clearly marked with expiration dates both before and after opening the bottle. If you are unsure how long you can use your drops, ask your ophthalmologist or pharmacist.

    It’s also important to store your eye drops as directed on the bottle or package insert. Some drops are stored at room temperature, while others need refrigeration. These instructions may differ once the bottle is opened. Look at each bottle label or package insert to find this information. If the drops are not stored correctly even for a short period of time, they may no longer be effective. If you're not sure if the medication has been kept at ideal storage conditions, it is better to throw away the drops and get a new bottle.


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