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Molly Maloof, MD

Director of Clinical Content

Scratched Eye Expired Eye Drops

My wife's nephew accidently scratched her eye. Her eye immediately began watering and turned red from irritation. We had some ofloxacin ophthalmic solution 0.3 and used a drop in her eye to fight infection, but then realized the medication was expired. It was originally prescribed to my daughter over the summer. Is there a cause for concern with using the medication?
  • Male | 28 years old
  • Medications: ofloxacin ophthalmic solution 0.3
  • Conditions: No

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Featured Answer

1 UpVoted this answer
How expired was it. In government studies liquids are good for 6 months and solids 1 year. If there is still pain irritation and any discharge or redness she shoud see an eye doctor.
Michelle Howell
The photo shows tree branches but I missed where they patient said it was a branch.

By the time I am answering this, you have either gotten better or have probably sought help if the pain was severe. My concern is for recurrent corneal erosion. When I have a patient with a scratch, I apply a bandage contact for better healing. But none of us knows where the scratch is or how severe.
Allan Panzer
I don't think that 1 drop of the expired antibiotic is harmful. Besides the medication is still viable for +/- 6 months after the expiration date. My only concern is if the scratch was caused by a tree branch as an antibiotic might not be effective.
Ivor Meyerson
If it is not significantly improved overnight and/or a worsening of symptoms occurs, you should see an ophthalmologist, or other eye care professional if an MD is not available. The cornea may need culturing with a possible change in topical treatment.
Michael Brenner
Using one drop of an expired antibiotic is not a serious concern, but it may not be much help. It is important to consider what scratched the eye, meaning was it something highly contaminated, toxic, or potentially fungal. Although many minor corneal injuries heal quickly without scarring, it is best to be seen and have the issue handled by your eye doctor. Corneas have some unique qualities, and any insult to the cornea is worth having checked.
Jeffrey Jessup
Yes, there is a concern. Expired antibiotics are less effective and may allow a stronger bacteria to live and therefore become a larger infection.

Check with your eye doctor if the eye is still sensitive.
Michael Matthews
Caution when taking expired medication especially antibiotics. Their effectivity is reduced beyond the date of expiration. Therefore, increasing the risk of resistance to future treatment. An expiration date is the final day that the manufacturer guarantees the full potency and safety of a medication.

Of note, the American Medical Association (AMA) concluded in 2001 that the actual shelf life of some products is longer than the labeled expiration date. Although drugs that exist in solution or drop form may not have the required potency if used when outdated. Loss of potency can be a major health concern, especially when treating an infection with an antibiotic. Additionally, antibiotic resistance may occur with sub-potent medications. Drugs that exist in solution, especially injectable drugs, should be discarded if the product forms a precipitant or looks cloudy or discolored.
If the eye has already healed no further action is needed. But if it is still red and irritated, I would see an eye doctor and get a new prescription and possibly a patch or a bandage contact lens.
Manufacturing companies routinely assign an expiration date to a drug whose shelf life was tested for that length of time. Although some drugs may retain their potency past the specified expiration date, I would err towards the cautious side and refrain from using an expired product as it may be colonized by bacteria and create a superinfection in your nephew's eye which now has a scratch. Take your nephew to an optometrist or ophthalmologist so that he can be properly diagnosed and treated.
Rita Niyigena
Most probably very little concern but I would discontinue using them and get him examined and a new Rx if needed. Corneas heal very quickly. The expiration dates are there to make sure the medicine is at maximum effectiveness and I'm confident that a recently expired Rx still works but for how long is questionable so the bottom line, have him checked out by your eye doctor and if needed get a fresh RX.

Best in Health

Dr. Higgins
Donald J. Higgins