How FDA-Approved Eye Drops Could Replace Your Reading Glasses

New eye drops approved by federal regulators could help people with age-related blurry vision.
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  • Federal regulators approved the use of Vuity, eye drops that treat age-related blurry vision known as presbyopia.
  • Experts say the drops may allow people to look at things up close without using their reading glasses.
  • They said the drops are most effective for people under 55 years old.

Here’s one you may not have seen coming.

The Food and Drug Administration approved new eye drops that can potentially replace reading glasses.

The prescription medication Vuity treats age-related blurry vision, also known as presbyopia.

It’s a condition common enough to affect approximately 128 million people in the United States as the muscles in the eyes require more effort to focus.

Although the condition is common, it doesn’t mean we have to live with it.

For people tired of always looking for reading glasses or squinting their eyes trying to read a product label, a daily dose of Vuity could help.

The drops utilize the active ingredient pilocarpine, which is meant to stimulate the eyes to reduce the size of the pupil and help the eye focus.

“I have been asked about this nonstop since it came out. Everyone wants to get rid of their readers,” Dr. Yuna Rapoport, an ophthalmologist with Manhattan Eye in New York, told Healthline.

“Vuity, or the generic pilocarpine 1.25 percent, improves your new vision through the ‘pinhole effect,’ or by making the pupil smaller. It gives about 2 to 3 hours of improved near vision but does not completely reverse presbyopia or the hardening of the zones around the lens,” Yuna said.

Rapoport said the new product will be great for people in their 40s and 50s who “still have a bit of their own accommodation left.” But it may not be so great for people over 55 years old.

“For those folks, it may be enough when glancing at a dashboard or a menu for example but not enough for sustained work or reading up close for a period of time,” Rapoport said.

What clinical trials showed

During clinical trials with 750 people from 40 to 55 years old with presbyopia, researchers reported that Vuity helped people read an average of 3 extra lines on an optometrist’s vision chart “in mesopic (in low light), high contrast, binocular distance corrected near visual acuity, without losing more than 1 line (5 letters) of corrected distance visual acuity at day 30, hour 3, versus placebo.”

“A large percentage of patients were able to improve their near vision by 3 lines or more, and the vast majority were able to achieve functional near vision of 20/40 or better,” Dr. Dagny Zhu, a LASIK and cataract surgeon in Rowland Heights, California, told Healthline.

“This means that many patients may be able to see well enough to read on their laptops or text messages on their cellphones without having to rely on their reading glasses as often,” Zhu said.

“However, it’s important to keep in mind that the response will vary from person to person depending on a few factors, including age and their baseline near vision,” she said.

Zhu said Vuity will work best on younger adults with moderate cases of presbyopia.

“I’ve already started offering the drops to some of my own patients and have been pleasantly surprised to see a noticeable improvement in as little as 15 to 20 minutes,” said Zhu.

Which doesn’t mean there aren’t side effects, although experts say they appear to be mild.

“Vuity has a well-established safety profile,” Dr. Selina McGee, an optometrist and founder of BeSpoke Vision in Oklahoma, told Healthline.

“In clinical studies, there were no serious adverse events observed in any participants treated with Vuity. The most common adverse events occurring, at a frequency of more than 5 percent in participants, were headache and eye redness.”

“Temporary problems when changing focus between near and distant objects may occur,” McGee said. “The important safety information states to use caution when driving at night or performing hazardous activities with little lighting.”

Rapoport said the generic version, pilocarpine, “has been around for decades.”

“At a higher dose (it) is used as a pressure-lowering medication in glaucoma patients,” she said. “In higher doses, it increases risk of retinal detachments in patients who are very myopia, or nearsighted.”

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